Interoperability and the 21st Century Cures Act

By Lesley Brown, SVP of Project Management at Halfpenny Technologies

It should go without saying that interoperability has potential to have a tremendous impact on patient care in the U.S and as such is a necessary component of healthcare reform.  The impact of interoperability ranges from expediting access to external sources of patient data (lab results, test data, clinical care plans etc.) to improving gaps in care during healthcare encounters to closing referral loops to enabling patients to access their data (and maybe even exchange their own data from home monitoring or wearables).  Depending upon the stakeholder and the end goal of their data exchange needs interoperability solutions vary widely within healthcare today.   With solutions ranging from basic HL7 interfaces to the use of the consolidated clinical document architecture (C-CDA) to direct messaging or the use of State or private HIEs.  And more recently select adoption of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource or FHIR APIs.

There are three (3) fundamental areas that are important for healthcare interoperability.  Firstly, the business case or need for clinical data, secondly the industry standards required and thirdly the changing culture of healthcare.  This changing culture of healthcare and data sharing is often the missing element in the interoperability puzzle but it could well see a shift forward with the recent passing of the 21st Century Cures Act.

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed into law in December 2016, covers a wide range of healthcare issues from precision medicine to diagnostic tools and disease therapies and includes components that will significantly impact healthcare information technology and interoperability.  The Cures Act aims to encourage interoperability between EHRs (and hence providers) while also providing patient access to that data, reducing clinician documentation burdens (read more time with the patient), the discouragement of information blocking and the development of a reporting system identifying how usable the numerous EHRs in the marketplace really are.   Really?  It would be awesome if electronic health information could be securely exchanged with and used by any EHR system without any special effort needed by the provider or system user, providing of course that the access and exchange is authorize under applicable State or Federal Laws.  And that it does so without constituting information blocking.   This legislation has no doubt caught the attention of healthcare’s information technology stakeholders and those companies providing the necessary technology, many of whom have responded positively to the Cures Act. Several of the EHR system vendors are already participating in one or more data sharing initiatives such as Carequality or Commonwell while providers are realizing the impact and importance of ensuring their EHR product is up to date and leverages the appropriate technologies that will be needed.   In a progression from some of the interoperability solutions used today the Cures Act calls for the use of a national API standard that would cover many facets of data interoperability such as authentication, security and auditability.  In these early days it remains to be seen how impactful the Cures Act will be on healthcare interoperability but it’s a step in the right direction.

Looking for a secure, flexible, vendor agnostic approach to interoperability and clinical data exchange? Halfpenny Technologies has been in the clinical data exchange business for more than 15 years and over that time have built reusable interfaces that connect to 90%+ of the top EHR vendors and LIS/HIS systems.  Halfpenny Technologies comprehensive clinical data exchange platform uses a multi-faceted methodology to obtain clinical record data.  We do not rely solely on the use of just one of the industry standard.  Our vendor agnostic approach allows the receipt of any EHR medical record data format and in return you can receive clinical data in the layout of your choice. Our continued investment in innovative solutions has uniquely positioned the company as a national provider of clinical data exchange solutions to the health care industry.

 

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