State senators: Poor interoperability = taxpayer fraud

A pair of Connecticut state senators say the lack of interoperability between electronic health records systems "amounts to taxpayer fraud" and call for passage of a bill that would levy civil fines against those found guilty of information blocking in an editorial published Saturday in the New Haven Register.

State Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) call their state to the carpet for a poor history of health data exchange, saying that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's recent report on information blocking confirms "many of the practices complained of in Connecticut." They add that Senate Bill 812 "begins and ends" with the concept that patient records belong to patients.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Health in July, used similar language in describing the federal state of interoperability.

"Providers should be expected to facilitate the electronic exchange of information," Looney and Fasano say. "Ultimately, any system that depends on thousands of independent providers using proprietary systems will waste resources, leave many patients out and be subject to manipulation."

The bill also calls for the creation of a "statewide publicly accountable neutral system" for health information exchange. Connecticut, of course, notoriously shuttered a prior attempted health information exchange in December (Health IT Exchange, aka HITE-CT), with the executive director for the Connecticut Health Policy Project calling it a waste of $4.3 million in federal funds. An auditor report of HITE-CT published in November found deficiencies in internal controls, noncompliance with laws, and inadequate management practices and procedures. The HIE had no chief executive office from August 2012 on, and never provided services or developed a self-sustaining revenue stream.

Looney and Fasano fail to mention the prior HIE attempt, saying that states that have implemented health information exchanges are "reaping the benefits" of lower costs and better quality.

According to a HIMSS survey published in January, HIE organizations are showing that they can be a support to providers, particularly in meeting Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. The survey, a follow-up to one from 2013, collected data from 19 of the original 23 participating public and private HIE organizations. It showed improvements in most areas, including increased computerized physician order entry, clinical decision support, summary of care records and patient reminders. 

To learn more:
- here's the editorial
- check out the proposed legislation

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