White House interoperability meeting focuses on regulatory relief, barriers to data sharing

A meeting hosted by the White House on Tuesday included approximately 35 people from a range of healthcare sectors and featured a broad discussion that touched on incentivizing interoperability, defining information blocking and regulatory relief, several people who attended the meeting told FierceHealthcare.

In what one participant described as a “listening session” the group stuck closely to the agenda, focusing on well-worn health IT staples like EHR usability and reducing regulatory burden. There was a discussion around Meaningful Use requirements and EHR certification as some advocated for legislation that would provide a reprieve from increasingly stringent requirements.

RELATED: Intermountain, Cerner among those meeting with the White House about interoperability

Some walked away with a sense the administration is keenly focused on EHR interoperability as White House officials asked specifically about barriers to sharing health information and what the government can do to help. But others left unimpressed with the administration’s grasp on the complex issue.

“They were super simplistic in their understanding and non-committal on next steps,” said one meeting attendee who asked not to be named. “They were searching for quick wins.”

That could come in the form of enhancements to the Blue Button initiative that would provide Medicare patients with a map of where their health data is located, as well as additional guidance on HIPAA, which was identified as a common excuse not to share data.

Jared Kushner, White House advisor and director of the Office of American Innovation and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma led the meeting.

Four breakout sessions that focused various aspects of interoperability—from technical standards to government oversight—were led by Verma, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s Donald Rucker, M.D., Chris Liddell, who serves the director of the White House’s American Technology Council, and Landmark Health CEO Adam Boehler.

In addition to executives from Intermountain, Cerner, The Sequoia Project and HIMSS, there were representatives from all walks of the health IT industry, according to one attendee. Attendees included: 

  • John Doer, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 
  • Bob Kocher, M.D., a partner at the venture capital firm Venrock, who served as a healthcare adviser in the Obama administration
  • Former National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, M.D., now the CEO of Aledade
  • Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra who helped form the CARIN Alliance
  • Kenneth Mandl, M.D., director of the computational health informatics program at Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Frank Opelka, M.D., medical director of quality and health policy at the American College of Surgeons
  • Josh Rosenthal, co-founder and chief scientific officer for the analytics company RowdMap who has also served as a public advisor to ONC and HHS
  • Chris Klomp, CEO of Collective Medical Technologies. 

The meeting also focused on ways to incentivize the marketplace to address the some of the real-world challenges around interoperability. Information blocking was highlighted as an important concern, but an issue that also needs to be sharply defined and actively enforced.

Patient and physician engagement were ongoing themes throughout the meeting as well as the government’s role in facilitating interoperability, through technical standards and public-private partnerships.

“The individuals in the room came from very different backgrounds and there was really increasing agreement and consensus on the importance of making this work and putting individuals in the driver’s seat,” The Sequoia Project CEO Mariann Yeager told FierceHealthcare.

The White House plans to outline next steps sometime within the next 60 days. But the administration was "non-committal" about a future meeting, according to one attendee.