The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has released a position statement to Congress explaining the importance of interoperability to the success of health care technology. The HIMSS's new statement contributes to the multiple plans for reform issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, offering a guide to facilitating the secure, interoperable exchange of health care information.
A hot topic within the health care industry
According to the statement, health IT interoperability is the key to less expensive and higher quality electronic health record systems. The HIMSS also emphasized that interoperability must be achieved within the next three years to enable physicians to leverage previously implemented EHR systems.
The letter first notes the general increase in the adoption of EHRs and successful meaningful use capabilities, explaining that over the past few years the vast majority of providers have implemented EHR systems and attested for meaningful use. The meaningful use program has been underway for four years, and the HIMSS believes that the health care industry has now reached the crossroads between using EHRs to improve patient care and developing the ability to exchange health information securely and privately.
"Health IT is fundamental to transforming healthcare," said the statement. "Positively transforming our nation's healthcare system requires, among other things, widespread, secure, interoperable exchange of health information. As a nation, we must maintain the momentum that has been achieved and continue to address critical issues to realize the benefits of the substantial public and private investment that has been made in positively transforming America's healthcare delivery system through IT."
However, the topic of interoperability is not something that is new to federal regulators. Several funding announcements, roadmaps and debates within the industry have made health information exchange a popular discussion point. The ONC's most recent plan to promote seamless data exchange between stakeholders is currently accepting public comment. The plan covers the development and distribution of data standards for maximum security and privacy.
HIMSS suggests 4 key principles for interoperability
The suggestions proposed by the HIMSS work closely with federal goals. This highlights the importance of an agreement between leaders of the industry in regard to reporting standards and data transmission. Here are the four goals released by the HIMSS in its recent statement.
1. Standards development organizations should offer educational resources and support in order to implement and develop data standards. Funding for pilot programs and the establishment of maturity models should be provided by regulators. This will help measure the implementation of regularly maintained and updated data standards.
2. Data reporting should be standardized to ensure that quality reporting is performed in a relevant, appropriate and safe manner, as well as to enhance care quality. New programs that use data exchange to bring all practices together should be taken advantage of by health care leaders to stimulate performance improvement. The EHR Incentive Programs should also assist with performance improvement through reporting measures and funding for a National Measurement Enterprise. These measures should be consistent and coordinated without poorly impacting clinical workflow or increasing the administrative burden experienced by physicians.
3. Privacy and security measures must be strengthened. To make sure that all organizations agree and comply with previously implemented privacy regulations, industry leaders should coordinate with federal agencies, such as the HHS Office of Civil Rights, the ONC and the Federal Communications Commission. Finding a balance between patient privacy and the growing need for clinical data in medical research should also be a priority for regulators.
4. The development of a public-private "Health IT Safety Center" will help aid providers in fully understanding the effects of health IT on patient safety and will decrease the potential for future incidents.