ONC and CMS push patient ownership of health data
One of the keys to increasing interoperability is giving patients control over their own data, regulators from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the CMS said at the 2018 Interoperability Forum this week.
To help facilitate that, CMS regulators might require providers to share data with patients in a universal electronic format. That move would help thwart so-called information-blockers—providers and vendors who prevent the sharing of patient data.
But news on information-blocking was slim at the forum, where some expected the ONC to announce a rule on the practice.
Instead, regulators and health IT leaders focused on achieving interoperability through FHIR standards, open application programming interfaces and letting patients be the agents of interoperability.
"Why are we talking about all this interoperability stuff?" asked Dr. Donald Rucker, head of the ONC. "We know the answer: It is at the heart of modern healthcare."
The push for more patient-data information exchange is in part a response to the 21st Century Cures, which calls for greater interoperability. The effort to meet the provisions of the act is a bipartisan effort, Rucker said on the first day of the forum.
Part of the effort comes from the CMS, which plays a "critical role" because of how many people it serves, Verma said at the forum. "We have the power to transform the delivery of care."
The CMS is trying to transform delivery through patient data—and through access to that patient data. Verma touted the agency's MyHealthEData, a relatively new initiative through which Verma and her team intend to give patients complete control of their health data. Verma said the move would help them achieve "a new era of digital health."
"Liberating data will drive innovation through the entire healthcare system and will allow the system to deliver value to patients," she said.
Rucker and others are encouraging that data "liberation" in part through application programming interfaces. "Open APIs are fueling the modern world," Rucker said, noting that the 21st Century Cures Act calls for developers to create open application programming interfaces for accessing patient data "without special effort."
Notably, Apple opened its Health records API to developers in June, letting them pull patients' EHR data—which patients can gather on their iPhones—into their third-party apps.
The ONC gave Apple significant stage time on the third day of the forum, when Apple's clinical and health informatics lead, Dr. Ricky Bloomfield, walked the audience through Apple's healthcare work.
"There's a lot of opportunity here, but there's still a whole lot of work to do," Bloomfield said. "There are lots of data types that still need to be liberated and lots of health systems that still need to get on board with these standard APIs."
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