Task force summarizes barriers, mulls recommendations to improve EHR data sharing

Patient care coordination is the "key driver" to data sharing, but there are challenges to accomplishing that goal, according to the Health IT Policy Committee's task force on clinical, technical, organizational and financial barriers to interoperability.

In its Aug. 25 meeting, the task force summarized information from hearings held earlier in the month regarding obstacles to electronic health record interoperability. Some of the major barriers to interoperability include the cost to interface, the lack of standards, the lack of infrastructure and platforms for interoperability, and the lack of a forum to pull together stakeholders.

While the motivation for providers to share data to coordinate care and participate in new payment models is pretty clear, providers are still stuck in "silos." The incentives also need to be aligned for both providers and vendors, since vendors will follow their customers.

"You need two to tango," said Task Force Chair Paul Tang, from the Palo Alton Medical Foundation.

Interestingly, the hearings indicated that malicious information blocking was not a big factor impeding interoperability, the task force reported. The task force requested that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT check to see if the agency has received reports about information blocking on a new email address set up to receive such complaints.

A bigger obstacle discussed was the variation of different EHR systems, which prevents "ubiquitous" interoperability, according to task force member Micky Tripathi from the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

The task force also considered several potential recommendations on reducing barriers to interoperability. Some of these may include more focused EHR certification that more accurately reflects what's occurring in the market, a way to bridge together different networks, HIE sensitive measures, and quality measures on vendors.

The task force's draft recommendations to the Health IT Policy Committee are due Sept. 9; the final report is due Oct. 6. The report was required by Congress in its omnibus bill signed last December.

The lack of interoperability between EHRs has been a primary issue in recent months. The Health IT Standards Committee Advisory task force also is finalizing recommendations on ONC's 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory, the agency's first deliverable in support of its national interoperability roadmap.

To learn more:
- here are the meeting materials