1upHealth, a startup that structures clinical and claims data so that it's easier to share, is adding Dr. Don Rucker to its leadership team as chief strategy officer, the startup said Wednesday.
Rucker, a health information-technology veteran who most recently led the Health and Human Services Department's Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under the Trump administration, will help spearhead new initiatives at 1upHealth that help the startup's customers aggregate and use health data.
1upHealth sells a cloud-based platform that structures clinical and claims data to make it easier for healthcare providers, payers and app developers to share information with one another. The platform converts data into the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources format, a popular data-sharing standard mandated in companion rules that ONC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued last year.
FHIR encompasses a format for data and an application programming interface—a software interface that lets different applications communicate and share health data with one another.
As part of the rule from CMS, payers regulated by the agency were required to implement FHIR-based APIs for patient access and provider directories beginning in April. Under the companion rule from ONC, electronic health record developers must make FHIR-based APIs available to customers by December 2022 if they want to earn a stamp of approval from the ONC's health IT certification program.
The rules from ONC and CMS were provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2016.
At ONC, Rucker—who was appointed the agency's head by President Donald Trump in 2017—led development of the ONC data-sharing rule. A draft of the rule was released in 2019, followed by the final version last year.
Under a set of provisions that went into effect in April, providers are barred from blocking patients and other providers from accessing health data. The provisions don't require data to be exchanged in a specific way, but Rucker has said he hoped providers would use FHIR-based APIs once software developers make those capabilities available.
Rucker during his time at ONC voiced strong support for increased use of FHIR-based APIs, which he said would spur an "app economy" of digital tools that could address numerous problems in healthcare—from new mobile apps that let patients download their medical records onto their smartphones to apps that help providers report quality measures.
Roughly 39% of patients who used a patient portal accessed their health records using a mobile app at least once last year, according to a data brief published by ONC, which could include an app developed by an EHR or patient portal vendor. Just 5% of patients who used a patient portal electronically transmitted their health data to a separate third-party service or app, up slightly from 3% of patients three years prior.
1upHealth's platform is a step toward Rucker's vision, structuring data in a way that complies with the regulations.
"The future of healthcare depends on broader access to standardized, normalized and highly computable data, enabling quality improvement and, ultimately, transforming the industry," Rucker said in a news release Wednesday. Sharing data between providers, payers and the "rapidly expanding healthcare app economy" will lead to better patient care, he said.
In addition to structuring data, 1upHealth has been working to add new services that make health data more useful—releasing tools for searching through data and analyzing data for population health programs.
1upHealth, founded in 2017, has raised nearly $37 million in venture capital funding, according to Modern Healthcare's Digital Health Business & Technology. That includes a $25 million Series B round raised this year. The startup is part of the health information exchange sector, which collectively accounted for $654 million in venture capital funding raised in the first nine months of 2021.