The Department of Health and Human Services should further leverage use of the Direct Project secure messaging technology to accelerate information exchange across diverse provider settings, advises two large coalitions of consumer and patient organizations.

The Consumer Partnership for eHealth and the Campaign for Better Care, jointly representing more than 150 advocacy groups, responded to a request for information on ways to reduce barriers to data exchange. Expanded and easier use of Direct is one such way, according to the coalitions. “For example, CMS should map National Provider Identifier numbers to providers’ Direct e-mail addresses and produce a directory to more seamlessly enable secure provider-to-provider communication. HHS also could consider how to offer patients and family/designated caregivers’ Direct e-mail addresses to encourage provider-patient secure communication.”

Other recommendations include:

* Data registries should electronically interface with data from electronic health records, medical imaging systems, product bar codes and other sources, and be able to transmit data to third parties such as vendors and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Additionally, registries should use standards for common data elements, such as LOINC codes for laboratory data and NCPDP standards for pharmacy data.”

* Evaluation of programs testing new payment and care delivery models should include the performance of providers on quality measures indicative of whether care was coordinated and data exchanged electronically. “Measures could include patient survey questions, electronically closing the referral loop, medication reconciliation, etc.”

* Medicare should more strongly advocate use of advanced Blue Button technology that enables beneficiaries to download their claims data in a better format. “It is incumbent upon HHS to ensure that consumers are aware of tools like the iBlueButton and other applications that upload, organize and display this information in ways that are understandable and useful to patients, families and providers.”

The comment letter is available here.

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