Lack of ubiquitous interoperability a lingering vexation in the healthcare sector
TBR believes the pace of health IT innovations will continue, and even accelerate, especially as value-based care takes hold of the healthcare sector. However, full realization of the benefits of new healthcare technologies will continue to be deferred until we have, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma in her conference remarks, “a healthcare ecosystem where data flows freely.” In the same forum at HIMSS18, White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner added that “even with the most advanced military on Earth, the U.S. still struggles to exchange records between the DoD [Department of Defense] and VA [Department of Veterans Affairs].”
Dr. Jon White, deputy national coordinator for Health Information at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), highlighted the challenges of enforcing regulatory rules designed to prevent data blocking during the HIMSS18 Compliance Symposium. While healthcare organizations that do not share patient information as required may face fiduciary penalties, White acknowledged that his agency has yet to comprehensively define what constitutes information or data blocking. He also described other complications stemming from fees associated with connecting health IT infrastructures and the proper reading of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations. Even beyond these challenges, White noted that some healthcare organizations as “an out-and-out business practice,” still refuse to share data, despite the risks of fines or other consequences.
Also during the HIMSS18 Compliance Symposium, Ken Mortensen, data protection officer for InterSystems, made a tacit admission that healthcare organizations may continue to block data sharing with impunity, provided they can sufficiently “explain the rationale behind their actions” if and when they are accused of information blocking and subsequently audited by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). TBR believes this sets a troubling precedent that may shift the focus of healthcare organizations in favor of governance versus care delivery, at least in terms of crafting satisfactory practices, policies and accounts of internal activities to indemnify against potential audits.
The 2018 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Conference & Exhibition (HIMSS18) took place at The Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas. The 2018 event was the largest yet, with nearly 44,000 attendees, over 300 educational sessions, and over 1,350 vendors demonstrating their healthcare IT solutions.