Physician Practice

AMA, HHS, and vendors announce pledge to improve EHRs

Physician Practice Insider, March 8, 2016

The American Medical Association (AMA) and a group of major EHR vendors pledged to work with HHS to improve the flow of electronic health information to patients and physicians and to increase data sharing with the goal of bolstering quality of care and reducing spending, according to statements released February 29 by the AMA and HHS. The pledge, announced at the Healthcare Informatics Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2016 conference, includes three key commitments that HHS and the AMA believe will encourage interoperability:

  • Improved consumer access
  • No information blocking
  • Nationally recognized interoperability standards

Health IT developers will focus on improving consumer access by building programs and interfaces that work with devices patients are already familiar with, such as smartphones and tablets. Patients should be able to easily and securely access, send, and share their health information, allowing them to better participate in their own care.

Information blocking, defined in the Improving Health Information Technology Act as the knowing and unreasonable restriction electronic health information exchange, has received increasing attention from states and the federal government. HHS’s FY 2017 budget devotes funds exclusively to combating the practice. The Improving Health Information Technology Act, passed by the Senate health committee and introduced to the Senate at large on February 8, would give the OIG the power to fine vendors that engage in the practice and levy other penalties on healthcare providers engaging in information blocking. An April 2015 ONC report to Congress detailed the prevalence of information blocking in healthcare IT.

Health IT market leaders are beginning to adopt ONC’s Interoperability Standards Advisory, according to HHS, but the pledge acknowledges that more work needs to be done to create and enforce these standards. HHS announced a proposed rule change that would give the ONC increased oversight of the testing and certification of EHRs, including the ability to revoke or suspend certification.

EHRs have long been a pain point for physicians. A study conducted by the AMA and Rand found that the current complex EHR systems may interfere in patient care and cause physicians to feel demoralized. The AMA is hopeful that the joint interoperability pledge will improve EHR functionality, reduce physician burden, and lead to better quality of care.

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