Task Force Proposes Interoperability Summit to Engage Stakeholders

A Health IT Policy Committee task force is calling for the government and healthcare stakeholders to convene an interoperability summit to ensure they are “working off the same page” to achieve health information exchange.

Paul Tang, M.D., chair of the interoperability task force, made the proposal at Wednesday’s HITPC meeting as part of draft recommendations to the committee. Part of the problem with advancing nationwide interoperability, Tang asserted, is that not all critical stakeholders are currently engaged and the pace of change is not fast enough to support delivery system reform and the shift of Medicare reimbursements from volume to value starting at the end of 2016.

“We really need to get together and understand what are the activities that must take place in order to get us there,” Tang told committee members. “We need to get together and figure out who needs to do what at what time. So that’s why we think that we need the power of the federal government to convene the major stakeholders and enduring private-sector business interests to sustain the effort.”

Also See: Fed Advisors Say Data Blocking not Hindering Interoperability

In late January, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a draft Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap identifying critical actions to achieve the successful exchange of electronic health information and outlining a timeframe for implementation. According to Tang, the purpose of convening a summit of major stakeholders “co-led” by the federal government and private sector would be to “act on the ONC Roadmap” to accelerate the pace of change toward interoperability.

Tang acknowledged that broader interoperability is a complex challenge with multiple participants and stakeholders, adding that “so much has to happen with so many different kinds of data” and “this all has to be done with collective action at the same time in order for this to work.”  

While ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap did a yeoman's job in laying out a draft plan, Tang argued that what’s needed is a clear operational definition of the pathway to nationwide interoperability so that the document does not become “just a book on the shelf and not get acted upon.” In addition, he said that as part of the proposed interoperability summit stakeholders would develop and implement “HIE-sensitive measures that matter” such as “no reimbursement for medically unnecessary duplicate orders.”

The 2015 Omnibus Bill, signed into law by signed by the President in December 2014, directed the HITPC to submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the appropriate authorizing committees no later than 12 months after enactment regarding the barriers to interoperability.

The task force is specifically examining the clinical, technical, organizational and financial barriers to health IT interoperability, and will provide final recommendations to the HIT Policy Committee in October to help inform HITPC’s finalized report which is due to Congress in December.

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