AAFP decries ONC's lack of 'necessary level of urgency' on interoperability

It's time for action on interoperability, Robert Wergin, M.D., board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says in a letter responding to the  Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's interoperability roadmap.

On Oct. 6, the ONC published a final version of the 10-year plan. However, in a letter to National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, Wergin says AAFP members do "not sense the necessary level of urgency to achieve this important goal and call on ONC to further accelerate this work." He adds that the national health IT ecosystem needs "to undergo more rapid transformation than has been the case to date."

Wergin also cites healthcare providers' needs, which include:

  • Systems that provide interoperability to support continuity of care and care coordination
  • The ability to switch and integrate different health IT solutions, such as EHRs, with minimal disruptions
  • Population management and patient engagement functionalities that require broad interoperability
  • Features developed with user-centered design and that take into account the transformed practice environment

He argues that vendors have reaped huge profits from the HITECH Act while not being held responsible for poor design and lack of interoperability, and that physicians and their patients cannot wait until 2024 for improved interoperability.

"If we want physicians and other clinicians to transform their practices and be successful in the value-based payment models established by MACRA (Medicare Access and Children's Health Insurance Plan Reauthorization Act, then we must ensure that the information technology infrastructure is capable of assisting them," he says.

The American Hospital Association cited the many difficulties with interoperability in a recent report, concluding that much work remains to make it a reality.

In addition, two senators recently introduced a bill that would make interoperability central to a health IT rating system to help customers make better buying decisions.

To learn more:
- read the letter (.pdf)