Interoperability: Government officials make plans for 2016

When it comes to secure health information exchange, all eyes are on 2016. At an event Tuesday hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Committee, government officials spoke of their interoperability plans for the coming year.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is focusing on "near-term challenges," National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo said during the event.

Those include making data readily available and usable for patients, making electronic health record systems less clunky and more standardized, and ensuring the market is more transparent.

"The future is closer than we all think due to not only the changes at the technology level, but at the policy systems level as well," DeSalvo said.

Two plans the ONC has in place for 2016, according to DeSalvo, include:

  • Creating information highways that connect across state lines. She said the agency wants to ensure health information exchanges, as well as private sector exchanges, can connect across the country within a year.  
  • The agency also is planning on hosting application challenges to entice developers and providers to come up with apps that will give patients access to their data. In addition, ONC plans to create a prototype app store where industry professionals can go if, for example, they want a better user interface for their system or a better way to access immunization records.

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also spoke at the BPC event, highlighting their new bill the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT) Act of 2015. That legislation would require the ONC to set up a rating system and publish results on its website of product performance in three areas: security, usability and interoperability.

Cassidy also spoke about the need for standards when it comes to system interfaces. He said a doctor he knows works at six different facilities providing neuroglial care and must learn and work with six different electronic health record systems.

"She has six different interfaces by which she has to work with--her productivity is just driven south," he said. "Why? She should have the same interface no matter. This legislation and [ONC's] efforts will begin to make that a reality."

To learn more:
- watch the webcast

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