ONC and CMS: We're at a critical inflection point for EHRs, interoperability

Now that almost all U.S. hospital are using electronic health records, the industry is ready for the next phase of information sharing, improved outcomes and collecting the digital dividend.
By Tom Sullivan
02:40 PM
ONC EHR interoperability

Touting survey data that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT posted Tuesday morning, Deputy Principal National Coordinator Vindell Washington, MD, said that almost every U.S. hospital is using a certified Electronic Health Record to manage care at the point of delivery.

“We're at a critical inflection point, one where technology, policy and demand are poised to change the way we think about access and use of health information to improve care and advance science and public health,” Washington said in kicking off ONC’s Annual Meeting for 2016. “A point where we, as a nation, move beyond adoption and transition to a place where health information is available when and where it matters most to patients who are receiving care. And, when it matters most to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of our country.”

With nearly half of hospitals sharing patient data with outside providers, Patrick Conway, MD, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the nation is moving into the next stage: where patients consistently and reliably have access to their own data that drives better outcomes.

[Also: EHRs hinder population health progress while MACRA has potential to ease workflow burden, doctors say]

“We're seeing a dramatic shift in the health IT arena [with] the MACRA legislation that enabled us to pivot to a more simple, flexible scoring paradigm with less burden and to be focused on interoperability,” Conway said. “That pivot is in the right direction and we are now discussing the details of them and what needs to be changed.”

For ONC’s part, Washington explained that ONC and the Department of Health and Human Services are working toward delivery system reform in a three-tiered approach: changing how doctors are paid, improving the way care is delivered to patients and building an infrastructure that enables good data to flow among providers in the healthcare system.

Washington pointed, for example, to the interoperability pledge that HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell revealed at HIMSS16, wherein most EHR makers, including Cerner, Epic and Meditech, agreed to make patient information more accessible but not engaging in data blocking and to support standardized APIs.

“In other words,” Washington said, “we're looking forward to [collecting] the digital dividend that we are talking about now that all hospitals and doctor's offices have this delivery system in place and digital data to work with.”

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

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