ONC’s Genevieve Morris: Value-based payments will make the business case for interoperability

A group of executives work together to solve a puzzle
The push from volume to value will help businesses see the benefits of data sharing, one federal official says. (Credit: Getty/ALotOfPeople)

As federal health IT officials look to advance interoperability within the healthcare industry, a big part of their push will be to help organizations understand the benefits of data sharing from a business perspective. Payment reform is likely to play a major role.

That business perspective is often overlooked during discussions about how to advance interoperability, ONC’s Deputy National Coordinator Genevieve Morris said in an interview with Healthcare Info Security. But it's one way the agency plans to advance one of its key objectives.

“I think we often end up talk about interoperability for interoperability’s sake,” she said. “We’re talking about it as this regulatory mandate as something we have to do, and think what we’ve seen over the past number of years as we’ve tried to do health information exchange is that there really has to be a business reason for organizations to sign on to do it.”

In the past, organizations viewed this data as their competitive edge, and sharing it “goes against their entire business model,” Morris said. Fortunately, the transition to value-based payment is restructuring the way healthcare entities view information exchange, which she believes will be a critical factor in changing that perspective.

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Insurers and providers have already begun using value-based contracts as a means to facilitate data exchange. Humana’s chief medical officer highlighted the shift from volume to value as a key driver behind the insurer’s transition to more of an analytics company.

“As the business models for payment start to shift I think we’ll start to see that same thing happen on the health IT side,” she said.

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Morris also touched on the challenge of defining information blocking—an issue the ONC is tasked with under the 21st Century Cures Act. Based on anecdotal evidence, she believes information blocking is happening, but she said agency officials still don’t have a good grasp on the details.

“I don’t know that the I really have a sense of what the most prevalent type of information blocking is,” she said. “I do think it's occurring; I don’t know if we really know the extent to which it's occurring.”