FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Health IT | FAH Policy Blog Team

Senate HELP Interoperability Hearing

This morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to examine the recent interoperability proposed rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which are intended to implement the 21st Century Cures Act. FAH member company LifePoint Health’s Chief Medical Informatics Officer Christopher Rehm, M.D. testified before the Committee.

Making health electronic information freely available to patients, families, and health care providers has been a top priority for hospitals and health systems. In his testimony before the HELP Committee, Dr. Christopher Rehm offered a clinician’s view of some of the health IT and regulatory policies that currently hinder interoperability:

  • Complying with new regulations are time consuming and resource intensive, taking a year (or longer) for a provider organization to fully integrate into day to day work.
  • The lack of an underlying interoperability infrastructure necessary for the successful and secure sharing of medical electronic information. The security and privacy of consumers’ data could be at risk if entities with access to that data do not meet consumer expectations regarding appropriate use and safeguarding of their information.  

To address these concerns, LifePoint Health’s Dr. Rehm commended ONC’s proposals to require health IT vendors demonstrate their products are usable in a “real-world” environment, as opposed to simply a testing environment. He also highlighted the need for appropriate timelines for vendors to develop and test products and for health care providers to appropriately train and safely implement the new and/or updated technology required by the proposed regulations. Lastly, Dr. Rehm recommended an industry-backed process to independently vet and test third-party applications, particularly those entities that are not required to follow HIPAA regulations. Such vetting should ensure that these entities are meeting relevant security standards and using data appropriately (e.g., not selling it to other companies without consumers’ knowledge).

As Dr. Rehm pointed out in his testimony, interoperability is not the end goal – “it is important we all remember that deployment of health information technology, interoperability, data exchange, privacy and security are all in service of delivering the highest quality care. It is not about the technology; it is about the patients, their care and their outcomes.”

To watch the full testimony and hearing click here.

Earlier this year, FAH and AHA outlined steps towards achieving interoperability in a joint op-ed in Modern Healthcare, “Providers have made strides on interoperability; let's add urgency to finally cross the finish line.” Additionally, FAH, AHA, and other national hospital organizations released a report urging all stakeholders to unite in accelerating interoperability to fuel improved health and care, engage individuals, and promote value. The report offers pathways to improve interoperability among health information technology (IT) systems, including:

  • Security and Privacy
  • Efficient, Usable Solutions
  • Cost Effective, Enhanced Infrastructure
  • Standards that Work
  • Connecting Beyond Electronic Health Records
  • Shared Best Practices