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ONC Releases New NPRM on Interoperability: How Might it Affect Public Health? [Updated]

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ONC Releases New NPRM on Interoperability: How Might it Affect Public Health? [Updated]

See our final comments on the ONC NPRM and the CMS NPRM Patient Matching RFI On February 11, 2019 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technol ...

See our final comments on the ONC NPRM and the CMS NPRM Patient Matching RFI

On February 11, 2019 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to Improve the Interoperability of Health Information. Referred to by some people as the “Information Blocking NPRM,” since this was the primary topic anticipated, the document actually covers a host of other topics related to interoperability driven primarily by requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act. Besides the initial text of the NPRM, ONC also released a set of summary slides and fact sheets to help explain the document.

Given the relatively minimal mention of core public health reporting certification criteria in this NPRM, there is still a fairly large potential impact on public health. Topics, descriptions, issues, impacts, and potential opportunities discussed in this article and associated documents are based on our careful read of the NPRM and related material. But please note that this information is voluminous and at times confusing. Ongoing discussion and review will attempt to clarify (and if necessary correct) initial ideas presented here.

In order to help focus the reader, I have prepared a detailed table of Public Health Issues, Impacts, and Opportunities (currently at Version 15) which will be updated periodically, as well as a separate detailed response to the ONC Patient Matching RFI and CMS Patient Matching RFI.

GAO Report on Patient Matching: Nothing New Under the Sun

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GAO Report on Patient Matching: Nothing New Under the Sun

On January 15, 2019 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report to Congress, Health Information Technology: Approaches and Challenges to Electronically Matc ...

On January 15, 2019 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report to Congress, Health Information Technology: Approaches and Challenges to Electronically Matching Patients’ Records across Providers. This report is in response to mandate in the 21st Century Cures Act for the GAO to study patient matching. To develop this report, GAO reviewed available literature and interviewed more than thirty-five stakeholders (who are not identified) over the course of a year.

I have written several blogs and a feature article on patient matching developments in the US. Similarly, this new GAO report is an excellent retrospective on industry efforts over the past several years. It includes a clear statement of the problem, good discussion on both barriers and progress to date, insights from the stakeholders interviewed on their practical issues, and a review of various initiatives by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) over the past several years. The footnotes alone are worth the read as they contain excellent sources and side comments.

AHRQ Releases Draft Guide for Registry Interoperability: Does Public Health Have a Role?

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AHRQ Releases Draft Guide for Registry Interoperability: Does Public Health Have a Role?

On January 11, 2019 the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a draft Addendum to the Third Edition of Registries for Evaluating Patient Outcomes: A User’s Gui ...

On January 11, 2019 the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a draft Addendum to the Third Edition of Registries for Evaluating Patient Outcomes: A User’s Guide called Tool and Technologies for Registry Interoperability. AHRQ has long written about registries – largely from a research standpoint – and I have been following this from afar for some time. This new guide is focused on helping those who both create and use registries understand the issue surrounding leveraging external data to improve registry completeness, accuracy, and usefulness.

This report covers lots of ground and does a good job of summarizing important subtopics. Each chapter is overflowing with footnotes and sources. In Chapter 1, AHRQ reviews the context for registries today within the notion of a learning health system, and then quickly jumps into a useful discussion of interoperability barriers and problems. Many research-oriented registries are narrowly focused on a specific issue or problem; AHRQ envisions a more interoperable set of registries that can create a more integrated “national research infrastructure.”

ONC Releases 2018 HITECH Report

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ONC Releases 2018 HITECH Report

In early January the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued its annual report to Congress for 2018 on the adoption of electronic health r ...

In early January the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued its annual report to Congress for 2018 on the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) and interoperability. This report is required under the HITECH Act and is further informed by requirements of the later 21st Century Cures Act.

There was actually very little to comment about in this report, and it felt more like ONC was “going through the motions.” There were a few (actually, very few) updated statistics about technology use, a short discussion about the importance of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and a useful but not terribly new list of initiatives and reports issued by ONC over the past year or two. I spotted one or two things in there that I had not recalled seeing before but nothing terribly important.

One thing that I think is notable was a short discussion about barriers to interoperability that we have heard before. The report identifies three types: technical barriers, financial barriers, and trust barriers. Within trust barriers the report mentions legal incentives to keep data from moving (I guess that would have better been phrased as legal disincentives to sharing), but this misses the point: It is the patchwork of inconsistent and incompatible State and local laws and regulations – not intentional information blocking – that presents a bigger challenge and barrier. These can be laws prohibiting movement of certain health data across state lines, incompatible consent requirements, or restrictions on “downstream” use of data that is shared. Until these legal barriers are addressed separate from trust issues interoperability will be hampered.

HHS Releases Landmark Report: Reforming America’s Healthcare System

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HHS Releases Landmark Report: Reforming America’s Healthcare System

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an extensive, 120-page report on the administration’s proposals to reform the healthcare system. The ...

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an extensive, 120-page report on the administration’s proposals to reform the healthcare system. The report, titled Reforming America’s Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition, is divided into four major sections. The report  that government policy of the last few years has suppressed competition, increased prices for healthcare, and limited choices for consumers. Though rich in detail as it tries to prove each of these points, the more than fifty recommendations are often broad and aspirational rather than practical.

Since I am not a health economist, I will leave the market issues to others to discuss (many of the ideas in this report have been vetted and discussed by others previously). But there are two sections of the report which make direct mention of Health IT.