Federal Government Focuses on Speeding Up Health Information Exchange Progress

With the move toward electronic health records in full gear, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now is looking to accelerate health information exchange efforts across the industry.

The goal is to “build a seamless and secure flow of information essential to transforming the health care system,” according to a press release issued in early March. 

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are improving the way care is delivered while lowering costs,” said Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator of HHS. “We are already seeing benefits, such as a reduction in hospital readmissions due to these reforms. Health IT and the secure exchange of information across providers are crucial to reforming the system, and must be a routine part of care delivery.”

To reach this goal, the government is placing an increased emphasis on data exchange in its meaningful use Stage 2 requirements. More specifically, the rules define what data must be able to be exchanged between Health IT systems, including how data will be structured and coded so that providers will have one uniform way to format and securely send data.

In addition, HHS is asking for public input on the health information exchange issue. The government issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on a variety of policies that could strengthen the business case for HIEs. The following are examples of issues that are specifically called out in the RFI:

  • Expand states’ authority to rely less on traditional Medicaid forms of payment, which would encourage HIE, and remove other state-level regulatory barriers to data exchange
  • Expand HIE requirements for new ACO, bundled payments and primary care programs;
  • Develop new measures of care coordination that encourage records sharing during care transitions in meaningful use and quality reporting programs

"The 2014 standards for electronic health records create the technical capacity for providers to be able to share information with each other and with the patient," said Farzad Mostashari, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "Through the RFI, we are interested in hearing about policies that could provide an even greater business case for such information sharing."