Health system CEOs seem cautiously optimistic about final interoperability rules from HHS, according to Modern Healthcare’s most recent CEO Power Panel survey.
Half of respondents included in the survey of top healthcare CEOs said the rules may spur innovation, followed by 42.9% who said they expect the rules to slightly spur innovation.
None of the respondents said they expect the rules to create significant innovation. Just 7.1% of surveyed CEOs said they don’t expect the rules to drive innovation at all.
“What these apps are going to allow is for patients to own their information and aggregate it in a usable way,” said Cathy Jacobson, CEO of Froedtert Health in Milwaukee. “That’s where healthcare’s got to go. You can’t trap the patient record inside your own health system and inside the EHR.”
Apps in many ways underpin the two companion interoperability rules from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS. The rules require providers and insurers to adopt standardized application programming interfaces—protocols that connect various types of software, such as electronic health records and mobile apps, to one another.
HHS in April unveiled plans to delay enforcement of some components of the rules for three to six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the rules, the Trump administration envisions developers creating a wide range of apps from which patients can choose to download and upload their data.
“Who’s going to develop these tools? And what’s the incentive to develop the tools?” asks Howard Kern, CEO of Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va. “The new regulations that have been put out by HHS on interoperability have taken a major step forward in requiring some standardization and creating some concepts for new applications,” he said. But “there’s got to be an incentive somewhere to really develop these tools at a user-friendly level.”
There’s also the question of ensuring patient privacy. While ONC has stressed that patients will be able to authorize which types of data they want to receive through a selected app, most of the apps won’t be held to privacy standards like HIPAA.
“One of the things I worry about is that we all know when we download apps onto our phone we get this screen of small print with all these disclaimers … I don’t know about you, but I’ve never read one of those in detail,” said Warner Thomas, CEO of Ochsner Health in New Orleans. In healthcare, “that could be really problematic.”
“Interoperability will spur more innovation, but I think it has to be done with the right safeguards and with the right education for patients to understand what they’re doing with their data,” Thomas said.
CEOs still see potential—if done right.
“Conceptually, it’s a great idea,” said Randy Oostra, CEO at ProMedica in Toledo, Ohio. “But there’s a lot of risk here. We just have to be very, very careful how we do it.”