Interoperability is a topic that has been on the radar of the federal government, health care organizations and health professionals alike. Improving the interoperability of health IT across the industry would greatly enhance patient care and push the sector in the right direction. Leading industry organizations have started playing their part in helping the health care continuum progress toward enhanced data sharing between providers.
BPC advises congressional interoperability improvements
The Bipartisan Policy Center recently made recommendations to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee regarding ideas on how to advance modern medical innovations. One of the committee’s main suggestions was enhancing interoperability for health technology.
“Through extensive research and interviews with industry, patient groups, academia, government, and legislators, BPC has developed viable policy actions that Congress can take to reduce both the time and cost of developing and delivering safe and effective medical products to patients,” the nonprofit organization said in a public statement.
The recommendations were published on the BPC website. Most of the suggestions were for the Food and Drug Administration, including enhancing the medical product development process, ensuring that regulatory standards are clearer and increasing the current investment put into medical products, which would work toward properly addressing the health needs of the public. This medical product improvement area of the recommendations is where the BPC emphasized the health care industry’s need for improved interoperability.
“Americans cannot afford to rely on 20th century methodologies when the world is on the cutting edge of new health technologies,” the BPC said. “The hardworking FDA employees must be given the tools and support they need to succeed in this rapidly evolving field. It’s time to take action to significantly advance medical innovation in the United States.”
One of the suggestions included a request for Congress to offer clearer, more concise explanations of regulatory authority associated with health IT and to make sure that there is a risk-based framework available for health IT that is interoperable without sacrificing patient safety.
Recommendations for improving Interoperability
The federal adoption of health IT standards is one of the first steps to establishing greater interoperability across the industry, according to the BPC suggestions. The recommendation noted that these standards should include the proper identification of patient data with health provider identification, clinical models, transport and other essential factors.
It also states that standards for electronic health records should be included in federal adoption, which should also involve standards for electronic health data submissions. Other health IT that should be included are systems procured by federal agencies and technologies funded by federal grants and agency contracts.
The rest of the BPC recommendations focus primarily on the sharing and reporting of the federal government’s efforts involving these standards. For example, one of the suggestions explained that the industry would benefit if each of its federal agencies created a report regarding their compliance with the federal standards. It would also require that the Government Accountability Office report on its compliance.
An additional recommendation would make it mandatory that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the National Coordinator determine which health IT standards the federal government should adopt as well as other areas that would benefit from adopting effective health IT standards.
Another aspect of the published BPC suggestions covered the certification and testing of health IT. It advised that the National Institute of Standards and Technology work toward creating methods for compliance testing for federal standards that are available to the public. The NIST would also enable certain federal agencies to recognize independent certification bodies and testing that confirm software complies with the federally adopted standards.