As the Senate Finance Committee examines new policies to improve access to care and the quality of treatment by addressing root causes that lead to substance abuse, healthcare chief information officers are giving committee leaders Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) some guidance.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives recently rolled out an opioid task force to identify ways to use technology and data to find solutions.

In a letter to lawmakers, CHIME leaders cautioned against imposing unfunded mandates on providers for more infrastructure but to continue to build off existing technologies including the nearly universal use of electronic health record systems.

The senators are asking a series of questions to various stakeholders, and CHIME has responded to three questions that are pertinent to the work of health information technology professionals.

For example, Hatch and Wyden ask how Medicare and Medicaid payment incentives can be used to help patients get evidence-based substance abuse prevention, screening, assessment and treatment services to improve outcomes. CHIME recommended more activities supported by the MIPS payment program specifically aimed at the opioid problem, such as use of new mobile app-supported guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and use of electronic prescribing for controlled substances.

The organization also urged focusing on ways to improve data interoperability. “Clinicians still report that Continuity of Care Documents are still too bulky and are not easily ingested by a receiving provider’s EHR,” said the CHIME letter, signed by Cletis Earle, chair of the organization’s board of trustees, and Russell Branzell, its CEO. Further, clinical decision support systems may have treatment information that cannot be seamlessly integrated into the EHR.

Cletis Earle

Hatch and Wyden also are looking for ideas on how Medicare and Medicaid can identify and educate providers with high prescribing patterns of opioids. Better integration of EHRs with prescription drug monitoring programs is a start, according to CHIME. Data-driven reports of prescribing patterns also can help.

Also See: HHS wants to leverage data to track controlled substance prescribing

CIOs further need better clinical decision support software that offers evidence-based treatment options, lawmakers were told. “Properly developed and used CDS can help those treating patients on opioids and those for whom they are considering prescribing them,” according to CHIME. “CDS can help prescribers determine how many doses are included every time a prescription is ordered.”

Finally, lawmakers ask how data sharing between Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug monitoring programs and state initiatives can be improved and CHIME gave two examples.

The inability to match patients with their records across organizations remains a safety threat and a broken link in interoperability, CHIME contended. “We continue to recommend removal of the prohibition barring federal regulators from identifying standards to improve positive patient identification. Without a consistent patient identity matching strategy, the creation of a longitudinal care record is simply not feasible.”

CHIME’s full letter to the Senators is available here.

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