On Monday November 7, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) released their annual report to Congress. This report is the fifth such report to Congress since the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
As the report notes, since the passage of HITECH there is an extraordinary amount of electronic health information and infrastructure now exist that the country lacked merely a decade ago, has set the stage for a transition in focus to the seamless and secure flow of this health information – also known as interoperability – to improve the health and care of individuals and communities. These advancements have laid the groundwork for progress on a range of national health priorities, including delivery system reform, the Cancer Moonshot, combating the opioid epidemic, the Precision Medicine Initiative, clinical innovation, and protecting and advancing public health. To achieve these and other health priorities, HHS is focused on three priority areas:
- Promoting common standards to facilitate the seamless and secure exchange of data, including through the use of standardized, open application programming interfaces (APIs)
- Building the business case for interoperability, particularly through delivery system reform efforts that change the way the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) pay for care to reward quality over quantity of services
- Changing the culture around access to information through: combating information blocking; ensuring that individuals know they have a right to access and transmit their health information and that providers know they must provide access to the individuals; and reminding health care providers that they are legally allowed to exchange information in the course of treatment or coordinating care.
In the report ONC requested new authority to fight data-blocking practices that it says are growing as the health care system increasingly implements electronic health records. ONC says that nearly half of all office-based U.S. doctors shared patient health information with other providers last year. However, the report says that information blocking is occurring and may become even more prevalent as electronic health information sharing increases.