U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced on Feb. 29 that companies that provide 90 percent of electronic health records used by U.S. hospitals, the nation’s five largest private healthcare systems, and more than a dozen leading professional associations and stakeholder groups have pledged to implement three core commitments that will improve the flow of health information to consumers and healthcare providers. Secretary Burwell made the announcement at the Health Information Management Systems Society conference attended by more than 40,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the world. The three commitments are:
- Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community. Many of the biggest health IT developers have committed to using standardized application programming interfaces and a single shared standard for communicating with one another, Health Level 7 – Fast Health Care Interoperability Resources (FHIR®), so that user-friendly resources, like smartphone and tablet apps, can quickly be made market-ready and compatible with one another. These advances will make it easier for consumers to access their test results, track progress in their care, and communicate with their providers.
- No Information Blocking: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing). The report to Congress by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) discussed the prevalence of information blocking.
- Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security. Many of these market leaders are embracing ONC’s Interoperability Standards Advisory—a coordinated catalog of existing and emerging standards and implementation specifications. This guidance is updated annually in order to keep pace with developments in the health IT industry. By identifying current best practices in standards, this advisory will assist healthcare providers to more easily collaborate with one another and share data across “interoperable” electronic health records.