Healthcare Informatics recently published an article on the future of interoperability in its recent series on the Top Ten Tech Trends for 2018. Interoperability has proven to be a challenge in healthcare, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) “Promoting Interoperability” program, formerly Meaningful Use, is taking aim at progressing the future of health data exchange.

In January of this year, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a draft Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). The draft includes requiring providers to use health information exchange activities in order to share patient data. If providers do not use HIE activities such as electronically sharing patient discharge information, they may not be able to participate in Medicare. The public was able to comment on the draft over a 45-day period; both IHIE and SHIEC submitted feedback.

Federal health leaders’ effort to foster interoperability has been met with both support and opposition. Kelly Hoover Thompson, SHIEC’s CEO, does not believe enabling regulations will solve interoperability, although she supports the forward-thinking nature of the effort. She was quoted in the article: “I don’t think it has to go as far as what CMS [could be proposing], but I do think that it’s an indication to the industry, on a good level, that so many people are [thinking about] how to make things better.”

In support of CMS’s program, over 50 organizations signed a letter asking for an assertive drive towards interoperability. Many of these organizations support efforts to progress health information exchange, encouraging effective movement of health data.

IHIE’s CEO, John Kansky, was also interviewed for the article. He is an appointed member of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC), which has had a lot of influence in making TEFCA recommendations to ONC. As he points out in the article, “It’s fun to think about and I feel privileged in having a front row seat in helping advise ONC, but we don’t know how the regulation will evolve.”

CMS will most likely publish more drafts of their proposed programs, which will again be followed by opportunity for the public to comment on them. Although it may seem like a drawn-out process, Kansky believes the interoperability space is “ripe for bold change and opportunity… the solution isn’t one thing, pure and simple; oftentimes it’s a complicated ecosystem—but it works.”

 

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