The public sector isn’t traditionally considered ahead of the curve, particularly when compared to the private sector. But during the opening keynote panel at HIMSS, CMS Administrator Seema Verma stressed the opposite when referencing the agency’s recently announced proposed interoperability rule, which would require government health plans and health plans sold on the federal ACA exchanges to give patients access to their health information by 2020.

“[I]n this particular instance, the industry was not doing what was important, what is needed for patients and for the healthcare system,” she said. Instead, the government had to step in and make moves to push interoperability forward.

Fellow panelist Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. CTO under Barack Obama, went into a bit more detail.

Back in 2010, Meaningful Use revolved around the idea that electronic systems had to include a summary of the patient’s record. The thinking was that since some information may not be useful after a patient leaves the hospital, it’s best to collapse it into a summary of the health experience.

“The notion at the time was that we’d set the floor,” Chopra said, noting that information like a patient’s blood pressure and medication list were part of that base level. “The presumption was there would be a catalyst for industry action and that the government would do initial work — mandate the floor — but we’d have private sector collaboration and creativity.”

It’s now February of 2019, and we still haven’t added any more information than what was minimally required nine years ago. Other crucial pieces of patient data like pathology results and tumor staging data are pushed to the side.

“We didn’t minimally require it, so the industry didn’t self-organize to say, ‘Let’s voluntarily add this additional bit of data as standardized content,” Chopra said. That’s why, in his opinion, the latest rule is critical.

As evidenced by the discussion, which also included Karen DeSalvo (who was ONC chief under Obama) and Michael Leavitt (who was HHS secretary under George W. Bush), support of interoperability and patient access is bipartisan.

“[O]n this panel you have people who served in Republican administrations and Democratic administrations. But we are here today actually unified in … not only a goal but an approach,” Leavitt said.

Indeed, Verma noted that each administration has laid a foundation so that the government can keep driving ahead on interoperability efforts.

Photo: JamesBrey, Getty Images



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