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HIA Outlines Solutions to Boost Healthcare Interoperability, Data Exchange

HIA gave six recommendations to help improve healthcare interoperability and data exchange to enhance patient care delivery.

While advances in technology have helped improve data exchange, the healthcare industry continues to lag on the interoperability front, according to a Health Innovation Alliance (HIA) report that outlines solutions to meet the ONC's goal of improving healthcare interoperability by 2030.

"How we share data is going to continue to evolve as technology advances," Brett Meeks, senior policy advisor of HIA, said in a press release. "The solutions identified by the HIA address the key areas that have hampered the flow of healthcare information."

"Implementing them will revolutionize how patients interact with the healthcare system, and how care is provided," Meeks continued. "If we want to have a better system, we need to act now. The longer we wait, the more catching up we will have to do in the future."

The report notes six critical solutions that would improve healthcare interoperability.

First, HIA called for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to adjust its proposed policy to allow patients to request that providers and plans request their health data from other providers and plans, not just other providers.

"Patients should be allowed to request that covered entities submit requests for their health information to all other covered entities and that the covered entity requesting on behalf of the patient receive information from the other covered entity," the report said.

"Additionally, CMS should implement the payer-to-payer data exchange requirements as soon as possible and make that data available through APIs to providers and patients as well," the authors suggested.

Next, HIA suggested that Congress create an accelerated approval pathway for interoperable medical devices.

"The FDA should create a committee to help coordinate with the private sector and define interoperability standards and specifications across devices classes and to monitor progress with regular reports to Congress," the report authors wrote.

HIA also pointed to health data interoperability for medical research and innovation. In particular, the report called for HHS to encourage the connection of EHRs to research tools and applications that would allow patients and providers to locate applicable clinical trials. The applications would also allow researchers to find relevant patients, where appropriate.

Next, the report called on Congress to establish explicit protections from HIPAA penalties for patient information requests.

"Congress should solidify in statute that covered entities will not be liable for HIPAA penalties for sharing patient information pursuant to a patient request to share that information, codifying the current HHS policy included in OCR's FAQ 3009.22," the report authors said.

HIA also noted several solutions to standardize social determinants of health (SDOH) data collection and use.

"HRSA and ONC should fund existing work to standardize SDOH information collection and data standardization to build toward consistent collection, integration, and use of SDOH in clinical care," the report authors wrote. "Federal funding on information collection should focus on community health workers that are trusted and respected in the areas they will be collecting information."

Lastly, HIA requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ONC improve public health data collection and reporting within the next two years.

"To encourage consistency in data collection and use across the country, CDC should support a model data use agreement for potential adoption by states and local public health authorities," they suggested. "Health IT vendors should integrate automated public health reporting tools into existing systems and workflows."

"Federal, state, local, and tribal public health authorities should ensure that actionable public health information is being reported back to providers and others actively responding to public health crises," the report added. "CDC should contract with experts on data modernization activities and institute a transparent stakeholder process modeled after public meetings held by the FDA."

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