Industry experts suggest solutions to data blocking

Industry experts suggest solutions for data blocking

Along with the approaching ICD-10 deadline, interoperability is currently a major topic within the health care industry. Patient advocates, vendors and federal agencies have been working toward enhancing health data interoperability for electronic health records. Even major federal agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT have made pushing interoperability a priority through the new proposed stage 3 meaningful use requirements. 

Interoperable EHRs will enhance care quality
The goal to reach interoperability on a nationwide level is one that will ultimately improve aspects of care, such as patient engagement through patient portals and care quality with enhanced diagnoses. EHR systems have already shown how they can benefit practices and hospitals as adoption rates increase across the country. 

The ONC noted on its website that once the industry is able to develop a network of systems that can effectively exchange medical information throughout the health care continuum, EHRs will no longer be a popular trend, but an absolute necessity for successful care delivery. Certified EHR systems will continue to improve practice workflow and health information exchange as they become progressively interoperable. 

Before data exchange can be fully implemented, there are various interoperability standards that must be taken into consideration. These include messaging capabilities between different platforms and the integration of consumer tools with proper medical systems. 

Although most health professionals and the federal government have emphasized how crucial interoperability is to enhance patient outcomes and workflows, there may be specific entities that have been blocking the flow of health data throughout the industry. 

Industry experts provide suggestions for data blocking elimination
The American Medical Informatics Association recently released a list of suggestions in the Journal of the AMA on how to enhance health data interoperability throughout the nation. One such recommendation involves readjusting EHR certification standards so that they require more technical features aimed at boosting safe and reliable medical data exchange and interoperability.

A recent analysis from market research firm Frost and Sullivan found that around 50 percent of medical providers in the world have a health care IT roadmap to increase interoperability. The development of an IT roadmap is essential to pushing EHR interoperability. 

According to John Halamka, M.D., chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, there are entities within the medical industry that have been charging interface fees whenever data access requests are made. Congress is currently working to stop these charges to eliminate this means of data blocking. 

"Providers are fed up with interface fees and at how hard it is to accomplish the workflow required by Accountable Care business models including care management and population health," Halamka said, according to Geekdoctor. "They are unsatisfied with the kind of summaries we're exchanging today which are often lengthy, missing clinical narrative and hard to incorporate/reconcile with existing records." 

Halamka explained that there are a few necessary tasks that must be completed to solve the issues surrounding interoperability and data blocking. He suggested eliminating meaningful use requirements, clearly defining the necessities of care coordination and care management and developing a national provider directory to send important messages through health IT. Halamka also noted that creating a voluntary national identifier in health care and catering state privacy laws toward reducing health information blocking are essential steps to improve interoperability. 

If the health care sector continues to push the improvement of interoperability with the help of expert suggestions from researchers and medical organizations, it is likely that the industry will see significant enhancements over the course of the next few years. This means better patient care and a reduction of medical errors, benefiting patients and physicians across the health care continuum.