With a range of legal and market barriers preventing providers from effectively sharing patient information, the National Governor’s Association (NGA) is urging states to consider a structured approach to interoperability that also maintains data security.
States can facilitate a better approach to clinical data-sharing by amending laws to align with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), creating standardized consent forms and incentivizing information exchange through payment reform, according to a new roadmap released by the NGA.
“We cannot achieve better care or better health and lower costs without ensuring our providers are able to get the information they need at the right time to provide the highest level of care for their patients,” NGA Center Health Division Director Frederick Isasi said while announcing the tool at the National Press Club.
"It's difficult to treat the whole person with half the data at hand." - Megan Vanderstelt with @MichiganHHS— NGA (@NatlGovsAssoc) December 9, 2016
The road map identifies five ways states can improve data-sharing:
- Assemble a core team: This team should include stakeholders from the offices of the governor and the attorney general, as well as the state health IT coordinator, employee benefits, Medicaid, and public health.
- Conduct legal and market analyses: Review and discuss potential changes to existing state privacy laws and identify new payment structures to incentivize data exchange between providers.
- Determine primary barriers: Prioritize the above barriers and address those that pose the biggest limitations on interoperability.
- Select strategies: Identify ways to ensure any regulatory or payment changes have the biggest impact by educating providers and ensuring they have the resources to make infrastructure changes or technology upgrades.
- Implement and evaluate: Roll out the identified strategies in a structured way with an established timeline, and identify metrics to continuously evaluate the impact of those strategies on interoperability within the state.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) chief privacy officer, Lucia Savage, applauded the NGA’s work in a blog post, noting that even organizational policies exacerbate confusion over state and federal privacy laws, inhibiting information exchange between providers. The 21st Century Cures Act, which recently passed the Senate and is expected to be signed by President Obama, includes provisions to improve EHR interoperability.
The ONC has previously stated that the HIPAA does not hinder interoperability, but has taken steps to help providers navigate federal and state laws. In August, the agency released its draft Interoperability Standards Advisory in an effort to further discussions surrounding patient information sharing. The ONC has said it wants to ensure the majority of providers and individuals can easily transfer electronic information by the end of 2017.