Price at Health Datapalooza: 'Rules of the road' are needed for 'true interoperability'

Dive Brief:

  • “True interoperability has always been the goal,” HHS Secretary Tom Price said at Health Datapalooza 2017 in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
  • Yet the path toward achieving that goal has been getting bogged down in recent years, Price said, suggesting guidance from the HHS to be able to decide on “the rules of the road.”
  • He also believes that the industry is in need of new healthcare policies focused on “accessibility, affordability, quality and empowering patients," as well as patient-centered care that reduces the administrative burdens that more and more clinicians have been reporting.

Dive Insight:

This was Price’s health IT first speech after being confirmed as the HHS Secretary and he has a lot to say about the hurdles in the digital health space, including the challenges the industry has been facing with data entry. 

Achieving true interoperability is no easy task. But the Obama administration made some progress with the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to use health data for improving research and care, the Interoperability Standards Advisory Task Force and The Sequoia Project. 

There is still a lot of room for improvement. Legacy EHR vendors, health IT companies and several healthcare organizations, such as Partners Healthcare and UPMC, have embarked on their own push to bring down barriers to interoperability over the past few years.

Being able to streamline the process of sharing health data can help providers craft more personalized care plans and improve outcomes. This has become even more important now as the federal government continues its push toward value-based care where clinicians have their payments tied to the quality of care they provide.

Yet most (72%) healthcare executives and clinicians who responded to a recent survey from NEJM Catalyst believe the lack of interoperability is the top barrier to better use of patient data. Respondents also said the biggest opportunities for information-sharing in healthcare are care coordination (81%), decision support (79%), predictive analytics (68%) and precision medicine (45%).

One of the main issues with interoperability has been the lack of common standards for health data. The HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has made it a priority to tackle this issue. The new head of the ONC, former executive at Siemens Healthcare Daniel Rucker, was revealed last month.

Price avoided any talk of the ongoing Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The status of that effort is unclear with differing reports by the day.

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Filed Under: Health IT Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Gage Skidmore