2015-2016 Congressional Asks: Support Robust Interoperability and Health Information Exchange

Patients and providers need interoperable health IT tools to ensure the right information is available at the right time to make better health and healthcare-related decisions.  Such tools help facilities and providers gather and transmit necessary data to improve the delivery of healthcare, achieve better health outcomes, reduce costs, and address public health needs.

HIMSS supports actions in Congress to synchronize national efforts to advance interoperability. 

Specifically, Congress should:

  1. Direct HHS to review and amend the ONC Health IT Certification Program to include rigorous interoperability testing (or leverage private sector-led testing programs) to ensure consistent implementation of HIE standards and specifications in all technology used in the exchange of health information.
    1. ONC’s Program testing is limited in scope. Requiring consistent implementation of HIE standards is necessary to ensure all technology platforms are able to exchange information needed to inform care decisions.
    2. As emphasized in Meaningful Use Stage 2, adopting health IT tools that enable the exchange of relevant clinical and business information needed to inform care decisions. are essential components of the nation’s healthcare transformation strategy.
  2. Remove the Congressional prohibition (levied on HHS annually since 1999) on the use of federal funds for the development of a unique patient identifier standard.
  3. Direct HHS to study a nationwide patient matching strategy.
    1. Such a study must include: the benefits and implications of applying a nationwide strategy; the safety risks associated with NOT having a nationwide strategy; the impact on privacy, security, and safety of a nationwide strategy; and, current and near-term best practices and technological solutions.
    2. Ensuring the accurate, timely, and efficient matching of patients with their data across different systems and settings of care is critical to enhancing the safe and secure e-exchange of health information. Patient-data mismatches remain a significant problem. If we do not address differences in systems, matching algorithms, and data dictionaries, mismatches will increase as entities engage in greater health information exchange.
  4. Direct all federally-funded national and state government agencies to have the functionality to exchange data with healthcare institutions through means of standard language interfaces, e-data exchange, and health information exchanges.
    1. Require a study on the barriers to e-data exchange with federal/state agencies and the subsequent cost/quality impact incurred due to a lack of uniformity of data exchange.
    2. Direct HHS to provide a three-year roadmap based upon findings from the study whereby all federal and state entities receiving federal funds are able to e-exchange data. The HHS Secretary is to provide annual updates.