At the request of Congress, a Health IT Policy Committee task force will develop recommendations for removing technical and financial barriers to the interoperability of electronic health records.

“We have been discussing interoperability in various venues. We’ve had hearings, workgroups, and the JASON report—there’s been a number of times that we’ve deliberated on this—and we will go back and summarize all that,” said Paul Tang, vice chair of the HITPC, during Tuesday’s virtual meeting. “In addition, we’ll look at sort of a new area that we haven’t talked about in depth, which is the financial barriers to interoperability. And, we all know that plays a key role.”

According to industry observers, including some former National Coordinators for Health IT, the main challenges to interoperability are not technical—but business related—and economic disincentives are why health information exchange is struggling to gain traction. For its part, Tang said that the HITPC task force will provide “input” to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on the financial barriers to interoperability to help inform ONC’s report back to Congress.

In late April, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced a bipartisan, full committee staff working group to help identify ways that Congress and the Obama administration can work together to improve EHRs for doctors, hospitals, and their patients, including facilitating information exchange between different EHR vendors and different providers.

Also See: Senate Committee Forms Working Group to Improve EHRs

According to Alexander, the exchange of health information “so that a patient’s health record can be accessed by physicians and pharmacists in an efficient and reliable way” has been a “glaring failure of the current state of electronic health records.” The goal of the committee’s bipartisan working group is to identify five or six steps to improve EHRs—technology that Alexander asserts “has great promise, but has, through bad policy and bad incentives, run badly off track.”

At a June 10 committee hearing on health information exchange, Murray said ensuring that EHR systems “developed by different vendors, and used by different doctors, are able to speak to each other” must be a priority as should the development of a “network of networks” so that providers “have many options for trustworthy information sharing, and they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they need to exchange information with a new facility.”

Murray added that “members on both sides of the aisle have some great ideas for ways we can move forward on these issues” and that “Acting Assistant Secretary Dr. Karen DeSalvo also sees this as a top priority as she moves into her new role.”

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Health Data Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access