As pressure mounts for the federal government to compel healthcare vendors and providers to ease the flow of data across various programs and technologies, a group of private-sector leaders has developed its own interoperability road map with its own standards and incentives.
The eHealth Initiative, a nonprofit group bringing together industry leaders to discuss digital health, unveiled their plan at a conference Thursday. Its members were quick to distinguish their efforts from the draft interoperability roadmap set forth by HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Dr. Steven Stack, president-elect of the American Medical Association emphasized his belief that the group's private-sector composition differentiates its approach from the government's efforts to encourage IT adoption and guide the way it is employed through the meaningful-use program. “This is more comprehensive than meaningful use,” Stack said.
However, both plans call for greater use of standards and open APIs (application programming interfaces), which allow different systems to exchange information.
Stack reiterated the AMA's criticism of the electronic health record incentive program's rigidity and said he believed the private model would be more flexible.
Efforts to encourage greater IT use would need to include a boost from private health plans, said Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare. New value-based payment models will inevitably encourage sharing and collaboration, Ho said, which will in turn encourage increased technology adoption and interoperability.
The insurers in the eHealth Initiative are specifically considering including extra payments for technology adoption, including electronic data transfer and collaborative care plans. “Really this is about what the private sector can do to take health IT to a new level,” Ho said. “It needs to help doctors help practice more consistent, more evidence-based medicine.”
The group's road map would reach technologies and healthcare professionals not covered by meaningful use. John Glaser, CEO of health services at Siemens Healthcare, noted that meaningful use did not include many types of professionals, such as behavioral health providers. Nor does it cover many types of technologies, and there should be an increased emphasis on connected devices like sensors, Glaser said.
Dan Garrett, the leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' health information technology practice, added that retailers like CVS are also omitted from the government's meaningful-use program, which was created under the 2009 stimulus law to speed the adoption of EHRs among doctors and hospitals.
Broader IT adoption, Garrett added, could also benefit the pharmaceutical industry, since data gathered in EHRs could benefit that industry's research and development efforts.
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