Standardization vs. innovation, privacy and security vs. interoperability—it’s quite a balancing act. In hopes of juggling many competing priorities, such as patient access to health information while still protecting privacy, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) published the final version of the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program final rule on Monday, May 1, 2020.
This rule implements provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes parameters of compliance for health information technology (Health IT) developers under the ONC Health IT Certification Program (Program). ONC also desires transparency and the stimulation of innovation in health care by minimizing API development and maintenance costs. Finally, ONC wants to reduce the burden on providers and health systems by making physician chart requests simple and allowing providers to easily switch health systems.
While buzz words like ‘integrated care,’ ‘care coordination,’ ‘population health’ and ‘value-based care,’ have been used across the industry, each of these initiatives are powered by interoperability and data integration, driving knowledge flow and patient engagement. In addition, interoperability and data integration also allow data to be leveraged to inform clinical decisions, empowering patient-driven healthcare and ensuring the right care is delivered at the right place, at the right time, at the right cost for the right person.
The industry has made advancements around interoperability through public and provider collaborations, such as Carequality and the Commonwell Alliance, but the largest leap forward is the ONC Interoperability and Information Blocking Rule due to its inclusion of the patient. This rule benchmarks the most extensive healthcare data-sharing policies ever implemented by the federal government, marking an unprecedented time for both healthcare providers and patients.
Three key takeaways from the rule:
Interoperability and COVID-19
Now more than ever before, it is vital that medical information not be siloed. As patients are seeking care in unfamiliar care settings, it is critical that those care providers have access to patient data at the point of care, no matter where care was previously delivered. Providers who have a comprehensive view of a patient’s health history and treatment plan allow for that provider to make informed clinical decisions and aid in coordinating the care of the patient into the lowest acuity care setting, keeping emergency department and acute care settings open for critical care patients.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt clinical service delivery, increasing numbers of care providers will need to leverage technology to manage a patient’s health risk from within the home. Remote patient monitoring allows for an individual’s health information, including vitals, to be shared with their provider in real-time directly within the electronic health record (EHR). By leveraging interoperability and data integration, clinicians will be able to access and share consumer information and identify and assess risk, which will help them provide the most appropriate intervention for the patient, which could include a telehealth visit.
As care is delivered across the healthcare continuum, the new rulings also give individuals increased authority over their own health information and delivery. ONC’s rule drives the implementation of application programming interface(s) (API) to allow patients to access their electronic health information via smartphone apps. Access to this information can dictate how an individual receives care, while also providing education and empowerment.
Interoperability across the healthcare continuum
As restrictions lift and care delivery normalizes, it is essential that we continue to work together. The rules on interoperability are driving a deeper and more comprehensive connection, driving unity across the healthcare continuum, as well as forging stronger relationships between clinicians and clients, even if those relationships occur through a new virtual world.
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