Several of the nation’s largest players in the private sector have committed to an initiative to improve the ability of providers and patients to share and use information in electronic health records.

The effort has gained support from some of the nation’s largest developers of electronic health records systems, representing 90 percent of the health records used by U.S. hospitals, said Sylvia M. Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Monday evening during a keynote address at the opening of the annual conference of the Health Information Management and Systems Society in Las Vegas.

 

HHS Secretary Sylvia BurwellAnd the five largest private provider systems in the country are among a group of 16 hospital and health systems that have also indicated support for the initiative. Several large industry professional organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Health Information Management Association, HIMSS and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives—were quick to add support for the movement.

Burwell said the vendors and providers have agreed to implement three core commitments:

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.

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).

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.

“That commitment to cooperation and innovation will help us build our healthcare system into one that works best for that patient,” Burwell said. “Today’s commitments are a critical first step toward success on this front. I want to thank everyone who has stepped up and become a leader in this field. From our end at HHS, we are committed to supporting our partners as best as we can.”

EHR vendors that have pledged commitments to the effort include Aprima, athenahealth, Allscripts, Cerner, CPSI, CureMD, Epic, GE Health, Intel, McKesson, MedHost, Meditech, NextGen, Philips, SureScripts and the Optum division of UnitedHealth Group.

Burwell announced that the following provider organizations are supporting the initiative:

  • Ascension Health
  • Carolinas Healthcare 
  • Catholic Health Initiatives 
  • Community Health Systems
  • Dignity Health
  • Geisinger Health System
  • Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)
  • Johns Hopkins Medical
  • Intermountain Healthcare
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • LifePoint Health
  • Mountain States Health Alliance
  • Partners Healthcare
  • Tenet Healthcare
  • Trinity Health
  • University of Utah Health Care

“These pledges also ensure that we can aggregate information, and it creates a patient-centric partnership,” said Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for the Office of Health Information Technology. “It’s putting our nation on a path toward real progress with electronic health records.”
Federal agencies will encourage commitment toward the effort and can nudge the industry toward commitment by its ability to certify EHR products, DeSalvo said, adding that “we have a broader list of interoperability standards and some business practices that we will set out.

“We’re also asking for advancement in using FHIR (an emerging interoperability standard being developed by HL7), which will give us the opportunity, from a technical standpoint, to create apps and an Internet-like user experience for accessing records. With this announcement, there are commitments by developers and providers on moving toward using a shared language, where information is moving freely throughout the system.”

While various initiatives have been separately working toward interoperability efforts, DeSalvo said federal agencies are encouraged by the scope of the commitments announced Monday evening.

“We’re excited about this announcement because it reflects a shift in the market,” she said. “It’s a shift in the way developers and providers are willing to do business.  We have opportunities to do this through our many levels to make this stick, to make this a long-term change. The fact that the private sector is coming along with us makes all the difference. We‘re so pleased that they are willing to make this declaration publicly.”

(This article appears courtesy of our sister publication, Health Data Management)

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