Baseline standards for interoperability could ultimately affect the level of reimbursement from Medicare and other federal health programs.
The federal government shelled out more than $25 billion trying to spur the adoption of electronic health records by health providers and hospitals. The goal isn't just to translate health information into electronic format but to create a data ecosystem in which records and data are sharable and extendable across platforms and devices.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the agency that oversees the health IT plan, released a draft interoperability road map on Jan. 30 that gives vendors and users a look at what the government wants to see in terms of data exchange between EHR systems.
The document is not a set of regulations but instead offers what it calls "a vision to catalyze collaboration and action across government, communities and the private sector." But the health industry is on notice that the use of EHRs that meet some baseline standard for interoperability developed in consultation with stakeholders and promulgated by government could ultimately have a lot to do with the level of reimbursement providers receive from Medicare and other government payers.
"To realize better care and the vision of a learning health system, we will work together across the public and private sectors to clearly define standards, motivate their use through clear incentives, and establish trust in the health IT ecosystem through defining the rules of engagement," said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health IT, in a press statement.
The document includes 10 principles for interoperability and a set of near- and long-term plans and milestones through 2020.
In the short term, ONC will facilitate efforts to establish a governance process for stakeholders, develop standards for a common clinical dataset that will serve as a basis for proprietary systems to exchange clinical health information, and define standards for transporting information across networks and sharing documents and media.
Another goal is to publish the best available standards for interoperability. A draft of that document, called the Interoperability Standards Advisory, accompanied the release of the road map.
ONC is collecting comments on the road map through April 3.