Tech heavyweights, others call on HHS to release info blocking rules

Apple, IBM and Microsoft were some of the nearly 30 stakeholders asking CMS and ONC to "expeditiously finalize" the rules – but EHR vendors were not among them.
By Nathan Eddy
11:47 AM

More than two dozen of healthcare organizations and technology companies sent an open letter this past week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget, urging them to quickly finalize rules allowing application programming interface access to patient records.

The letter, signed by organizations ranging from Careloop and Rock Health to Apple and Microsoft – but not any major EHR vendors – argues that APIs can make it easier for patients to obtain their data on personal devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

API access could also help patients aggregate their own records from several different health care providers and health plans to be able to take greater ownership of their care.

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Under proposed patient access rules, first published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services nearly a year ago as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, modern tools to like APIs are recommended to help facilitate the exchange of health data and electronic health records.

The healthcare industry has been eagerly awaiting finalization of the rules, which many think will be "what's going to define health information exchange and the health IT space for the next five to 10 years," as Doug Fridsma, CEO of AMIA, which also signed the letter, described them this past year.

"By finalizing the rules, the administration can provide patients, technology developers, and health care providers with clarity on API requirements so that these stakeholders can continue to work with government on private sector and policy solutions to increase the privacy and security of data exchange no matter where the data reside," the letter said.

The document comes less than a month the HHS published the draft 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, developed for the body by the ONC and which lays out goals and objectives for federal health IT efforts to ensure patients have access to their electronic health information.

While major strides are being taken to improve the way medical data and EHRs can be transferred, analyzed and shared, major hurdles to full interoperability remain, and will be a key development point in healthcare IT this year.

According to some health IT execs, the rules represent the biggest change and pressure point for interoperability in 2020 and beyond.

Epic meanwhile continues to campaign for changes to the forthcoming info blocking rules, lobbying hospital leaders to oppose them, and saying it might even sue HHS, depending on the final rules' data provisions.

While the company has show support for the patient access goals of the soon-to-come ONC rules, it has aired concerns about what it says are the patient privacy implications of enabling more open data sharing with third-party apps.

The following organizations signed the letter to OMB and HHS:

  • Aledade
  • Alliance for Better Health
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)
  • Apple
  • b.well
  • CareLoop Inc.
  • Ciitizen
  • Computational Health Informatics Program and SMART Health IT, Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Engaging Patient Strategy/LifeWIRE Group
  • Evidation Health, Inc.
  • Health Care IT Policy Consulting LLC
  • Hugo Health
  • Humetrix
  • IBM
  • ID.me
  • Kantara Federated Identity Resilient Ecosystem Work Group
  • Kantara Healthcare Identity Assurance Workgroup
  • Manifest MedEx
  • Microsoft
  • Missouri Health Connection
  • National Association of Accountable Care Organizations
  • Pacific Business Group on Health
  • PatientRightsAdvocate.org
  • Rock Health
  • The ATA for telehealth
  • The CARIN Alliance
  • The NGLY1 Foundation
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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