Interoperability, Data Accessibility, and Digital Innovation

State of Play:  The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new urgency around the need for improved interoperability so data can be shared among stakeholders to maximum benefit. This has further created the need for unified data standards so information sharing can be more seamless. While the Office of the Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have finalized their rules on information blocking and interoperability, they have delayed implementation. Given the complexity of these rules and coinciding COVID-19 emergency priorities, stakeholders were granted extra time to prepare for the rules’ implementation. Creating a sustainable framework for future data innovation requires extensive cooperation between public and private stakeholders. In July, the House voted to repeal the 21-year ban on federal funding to develop a national patient identifier. Improving efforts to match patient information properly will better improve data accessibility and safety for patients and providers.

HLC Position:  HLC believes better health outcomes for individuals and populations require an interoperable healthcare system where the patient is at the center of care and the right data are available to the right person at the right time. 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. Broader data access and interoperability can also help disseminate best practices and essential improvements in health equity by having the tools to eliminate disparities in care. HLC also believes that federal organizations, such as CMS, Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among others, have an obligation to share federally held health information, with appropriate privacy and security protections, so that maximum public benefit can be gained from their collected data.

HLC Recent Activity:

  • On September 4, HLC submitted comments to ONC on future improvements to patient matching and patient identification.
  • On August 21, HLC shared its HLC-Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) report, “Advancing Interoperability, Information Sharing and Data Access: Improving Health and Access for Americans,” with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the agency’s September data portability workshop.
  • On August 18, HLC submitted comments supporting proposed legislation that would permit healthcare providers to use U.S. Postal Service (USPS) standardization tools to improve patient matching.
  • In May, HLC was invited to present model interoperability contract language at the American Health Lawyers Association’s (AHLA) 2020 annual conference. The presentation, “Unblocking information – Industry Collaboration on Interoperability Model Contract Terms,” is based on the recommendations of the HLC-BPC Advancing Interoperability report.
  • HLC continues to work with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to advocate for policies to improve data flow to public health authorities during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • On April 17, HLC shared its key legislative priorities list with Senate and House leadership for consideration in future COVID-19 legislative packages.