Last week, Epic announced a new product that caught the eye of many in the industry. Share Everywhere allows patients to open their medical records to any provider with internet access, regardless of whether they have an EHR.
It’s an interesting development that has key interoperability implications. The issue of data access and exchange has been a historic challenge that’s been pushed more into the healthcare industry’s limelight since Meaningful Use requirements were passed in the 2009 HITECH Act. Many providers place blame on vendors. Companies have been accused of everything from information-blocking to misrepresenting software capabilities. Still, vendors have been slowly pushing toward interoperability with efforts like The Sequoia Project’s Carequality project, a public-private collaborative that promotes interoperability.
By most accounts, Epic Systems Corp.’s announcement that it was releasing a digital tool allowing patients to share their medical records with any provider was a huge leap toward reaching the ever-elusive digital exchange of medical information.
Epic’s Care Everywhere—not to be confused with Share Everywhere—helps in that quest. Using the technology, organizations exchange 2 million records per day with Epic and other vendors’ systems. Epic is also a member of Carequality, an initiative of the Sequoia Project whose framework supports data transfer among its members. Carequality members will soon be able to exchange data with members of the Commonwell Health Alliance, co-founded by Epic market rival Cerner Corp., greatly expanding interoperability.
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the impact of the HITECH Act on EHR adoption and advised policymakers on ways to improve provider satisfaction and health IT innovation in the post-HITECH era.
Co-authors Beth Israel Deaconess CIO John Halamka, MD and Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative CEO Mickey Tripathi, PhD acknowledged that HITECH is responsible for encouraging most hospitals and physician practices to adopt EHR systems.
However, some of the act’s effects were less than beneficial. Provider satisfaction in particular took a hit as a result of stringent, complex regulations.
Micky Tripathi feels that patients driving the innovation is the important takeaway from the big Epic news this week
The healthcare industry is no stranger to weighty problems, including skyrocketing costs, slumping provider productivity, and the near-universal lack of big data liquidity – and it has certainly tried to implement its fair share of forceful solutions.
The obvious inefficiency of such a system quickly gave rise to health information exchanges (HIEs), Direct secure messaging, and then to private industry-led consortiums such as CommonWell and Carequality, which have allowed vendors to tackle their interoperability issues together.
Health information exchange (HIE) collectives and networks-of-networks including eHealth Exchange, CommonWell, and Surescripts help promote secure health data exchange across healthcare facilities nationwide.
Specifically, many networks-of-networks have been successful in promoting standardization through the use of the Carequality technical and legal framework. In 2016, CommonWell signed an agreement with Carequality to implement the Carequality Interoperability Framework to further promote interoperability. As part of the agreement, CommonWell and The Sequoia Project agreed to carry out the interoperability and health data exchange activities necessary to create a Carequality-compliant CommonWell alliance. Additionally, the two networks agreed to collaborate in the future.
Two health IT groups are calling for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to use existing private sector interoperability models as the agency finalizes guidelines for trusted data exchange.
The ONC is currently developing a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement required under the 21st Century Cures Act to facilitate health data interoperability. The agency already kicked off the initiative with a stakeholder meeting on July 24, and officials have asked stakeholders to submit comments on the framework by Friday, Aug. 25.
The Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA), which represents 30 electronic health record (EHR) companies, urged the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to build on existing standards and technology for interoperability, rather than introducing major mid-course changes, with regard to its work on the 21st Century Cures Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement.
The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to move its health records to the same system used by the Pentagon. VA would adopt the Pentagon’s electronic records system, known as MHS Genesis, acquired by DoD in 2015. Fairchild AFB, Wash., is the first military hospital to use it with more hospitals expected to start this year.
Anybody in health IT following the work of ONC over the last several months has clearly seen the new leadership’s focus on improving the usability and interoperability of EHRs. But the office’s head, Don Rucker, gave more details on three questions ONC is asking itself as it opens a two-day Technical Interoperability Forum.