Several urgent policy issues require resolution to advance interoperability and health information exchange, the eHealth Initiative stakeholder coalition contends in a comment letter sent to federal health policy officials.

“A solution for patient matching, development of a consent framework, and variances in privacy rules across states that inhibit exchange of information from one state to another are several initiatives that require attention to complement the work being evaluated, tested and disseminated to promote the exchange of information,” according to the letter.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in March issued a request for information for ways to reduce barriers to data exchange.

Among its recommendations, eHealth Initiative noted that increasing regulatory burdens on an HIE system that continues to mature would inhibit further development and ONC should use public/private partnerships “rather than a process entirely within federal regulatory processes.”

The coalition suggests the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, created to test innovative payment and delivery models, also study different methods of interoperability and the challenges with exchanging information. “In particular, we believe this program can be successful in further exploring ways in which other health care settings, such as behavioral health, long-term care and other health care provider types are incorporated into an overall information exchange model.”

ONC also should separate governance policy from the technical standards for interoperability to focus on reinforcing and incentivizing interoperability, according to eHealth Initiative. “A regulatory approach to standards as proposed in the RFI may not be the correct tool to use to instill standards. The development of governance, on the other hand, is benefited by the greater specificity of requirements found in the construct of policy development.”

Full text of the comment letter is here.

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