Interoperability and Data Accessibility

State of Play: As required by the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted in 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced two new rules that set the stage for the federal government’s role in supporting seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.  In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed rules that would place an emphasis on interoperability, information blocking, and patient access to their own health information.  The proposed information blocking provisions apply to regulated actors, including healthcare providers, developers of certified health information technology, health information exchanges, and health information networks.  Under the proposed rules, actors who engage in information blocking will be subject to civil penalties and other disincentives under the law. 

HLC Position: HLC believes better health outcomes for individuals and populations require an interoperable healthcare system in which the patient is at the center of care and the right data are available to the right person at the right time.  Recognizing the importance of interoperable infrastructure for information exchange, HLC’s consensus principles emphasize the need for the private sector to develop technologies and applications that enable bidirectional and instant exchange of meaningful health data.  HLC believes that greater accessibility and quality of health data can accelerate progress in medicines, improve the quality of care delivery, empower consumers, reduce costs, and lead to other benefits not yet imagined.  HLC also believes that federal organizations such as CMS, the Veterans Administration (VA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among others, have an obligation to share federally held health information, with appropriate privacy protections, so that maximum public benefit can be gained from collected data.  

HLC Recent Activity:

  • HLC is working on comments in response to ONC’s proposed information blocking and interoperability rule. HLC will support
  • On May 30, HLC will held its second Interoperability Workgroup meeting focused on developing model contract language that contains baseline expectations of and requirements for interoperability.
  • On May 3, HLC responded to the ONC proposed rule to improve the interoperability of health information. HLC supported advancing interoperability and patient access in a manner that encourages innovation among healthcare stakeholders.
  • On May 3, HLC responded to CMS’s proposed rule to advance interoperability and improve patient access to health data. HLC supported an industry-backed vetting process for third-parties whose applications access electronic health information via application programming interfaces (APIs).
  • On April 4, HLC CEOs met with key members of Congress and administration officials to discuss the private sector action items in the HLC-Bipartisan Policy Center Advancing Interoperability, Information Sharing, and Data Access report.
  • On April 2, HLC’s Interoperability Workgroup held its first meeting to begin implementing recommendations contained in the HLC-BPC Advancing Interoperability, Information Sharing, and Data Access report. The workgroup focused on developing model contracting language that contains baseline expectations of and requirements for interoperability.
  • On March 27, HLC held a panel discussion at the 10th annual Health Datapalooza, highlighting the findings in the HLC-BPC Advancing Interoperability, Information Sharing, and Data Access report. Panelists represented HLC, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the University of California, San Francisco.
  • On March 26, HLC President Mary R. Grealy testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) about “Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act: Making Electronic Health Information Available to Patients and Providers.”
  • On March 1, HLC responded to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) regarding solutions to address America’s rising healthcare costs. The letter supported advancing interoperability to allow for the seamless transfer of patient healthcare information.
  • On February 14, in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center, HLC released a joint report, “Advancing Interoperability, Information Sharing, and Data Access: Improving Health and Healthcare for Americans,” at the HIMSS 19 conference.
  • On January 28, HLC responded to a request for comment on ONC’s draft Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs.