eHealth Initiative calls for flexible health information exchange regulations

Regulations proposed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT for governing health information exchange could "stifle innovation" and "hinder growth," warned the Washington, D.C.-based eHealth Initiative in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last week.

eHI called for laws that support a "more flexible framework" to allow for continuous innovation. The group said that safeguards and business practices didn't need to be included in the regulations, pointing out that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and state laws already are strict and effective.

"The focus for ONC should be on interoperability, as there are unmet needs in this area," the letter said.

The group added that regulation needs to be "participatory" and "representative--similar to what the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology recently called for--and that ONC's role should be more about coordination of stakeholders "to better define the problems inhibiting nationwide exchange of health information."

It also said ONC should reconsider the timetable for the development of governance because HIEs continue to evolve.

"More time is needed to consider what needs to be governed and to allow a phased approach to the development of an appropriate framework," eHI said.

The American Hospital Association, in a letter to National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari on the same subject, called for a "voluntary" governance structure not linked to regulatory requirements.

The comment period for the ONC's proposed governance ended Friday, June 29.

To learn more:
- read the eHI's letter (.pdf)
- here's the AHA's letter (.pdf) to ONC