Two recent talks have shed light on what people in the healthcare information technology sector might expect from the current administration. The first was a speech by Alex Azar at the Federation of American Hospitals recent meeting about value-based care, and the second, given by Seema Verna at HIMSS18, emphasized the need for interoperability among EHRs. Together, these talks make it clear that the current administration wants to give consumers access to their health data. But, how will this happen?
Alex Azar promotes value-based care to FAH
The first, given by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to the Federation of American Hospitals on March 5, offered a four-point plan to move to a value-based care system faster. He noted that even taking recent advances in areas such as personalized medicine and cell therapies, the US healthcare system doesn’t deliver results to match costs.
His four points included:
- Patients, rather than providers, should have ownership of health records.
- Costs should be transparent.
- Medicare and Medicaid will be used to drive change in the industry.
- Regulations that slow progress toward value-based care will be reduced.
Seema Verma announces initiative at HIMSS18
The second, given the following day, March 6, by the current Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Seema Verma at Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s 2018 meeting (HIMSS18), emphasized the need for interoperability among electronic health record (EHR) systems.
Verma announced a new initiative related to Azar’s first point. It is called the MyHealthEData initiative, and it is designed to give individuals access to their own health records. The announcement about MyHealthEData was published on the CMS website during Verma’s speech.
“MyHealthEData will help twork to make clear that patients deserve to not only electronically receive a copy of their entire health record, but also be able to share their data with whomever they want, making the patient the center of the healthcare system,” read the announcement.
The free flow of information
At least two factors are likely to inhibit the MyHealthEData initiative: the lack of interoperability among EHRs and the practice of data blocking. Verma addressed both in her HIMSS18 remarks.
One way CMS plans to address the barriers to the free flow of information is by overhauling the Meaningful Use program. “Our new direction will not only reduce time and costs, but will also be laser focused on increased interoperability and giving patients access to their data across all of our programs,” Verma said in her speech.
Additionally, data-blocking will be met with “a more aggressive stance” from CMS. “It is not acceptable to limit patient records or to prevent them and their doctor from seeing their complete history outside of a particular healthcare system,” Verma said.
What does it all mean?
Taken together, these two speeches make it clear that the current administration wants to make sure consumers have access to their own healthcare records. However, that sentiment begs the question: What will consumers do with that information?
“There is an entire level here involving not just data and information, but how the purchasers, payers, providers, and consumers of healthcare interact, and might interact going into the future – including with regard to sharing data and information among themselves to make business decisions affecting healthcare consumers,” says Mark Hagland of Healthcare Informatics in an article analyzing the potential impact of the two speeches.
Developers and programmers may play an important role in how consumers use their information. Apps that help patients understand and use their health data are likely to play a critical role, as are apps that help to transmit and streamline data.
Verma said that patients will receive copies of their EHRs electronically, and that the process will happen through application programming interfaces, or APIs. “CMS believes the future of healthcare depends on the development of open APIs,” said Verma, adding that CMS will function as a convener of APIs across the digital system.