ONC releases long-awaited 21st Cures interoperability framework
- The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a draft for its Trusted Exchange Framework on Friday.
- Under the 21st Century Cures Act, ONC was directed to develop an exchange framework, including a common agreement of exchange principles, to further interoperability.
- Interoperability is "a national challenge. It hasn't been easy," National Coordinator Dr. Donald Rucker said on a press call. He added that one approach to further data exchange is the framework, which he views as a network-facing issue.
While interoperability is a trigger word for many in the industry, ONC's plan — open to public comment until Feb. 18 — presents another step toward seamless data-sharing.
ONC Principal Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT Genevieve Morris said the plan focuses on areas that cause problems for data exchanges between networks. "It's a floor, not a ceiling," Morris said on the press call.
The Meaningful Use program implemented under the HITECH Act in 2009 offered financial incentives to providers to adopt EHR systems. Despite the wide adoption in the wake of the program, many providers have been flustered over systems' usability and administrative burden.
And it's understandable. EHRs were developed with billing principles in mind. The healthcare industry has shifted, and more is expected out of technology. EHRs have not kept up with these expectations. One major issue has been data-sharing among providers and technology vendors, with some being low-key accused of information blocking to protect their proprietary data, and thus market share.
However, as healthcare seeks to become more networked and consumers demand a better experience when they engage with healthcare services, the industry has seemingly been more open to the idea of data-sharing. This can be seen in some vendor data agreement endeavors, such as The Sequoia Project.
ONC's draft framework sets forth principles and a set of minimum required terms and conditions for trusted exchange. The agency is "attempting to build a single on-ramp to interoperability," Morris said, adding the agency hopes to achieve network-to-network capabilities on a single network.
For an industry obsessed with fintech, Morris chose to liken the idea to the telecoms industry, where a customer can pick between cell service providers but connects to a single network to get all the data they need.
The proposed Trusted Exchange Framework includes:
- Patient Access – Patients must be able to access their health information electronically without any special effort;
- Population-level Data Exchange – Providers and payer organizations accountable for managing benefits can receive population level health information allowing them to analyze population health trends, outcomes and costs; identify at-risk populations; and track progress on quality improvement initiatives; and
- Open and Accessible APIs – The health IT community should have open and accessible application programming interfaces (APIs) to encourage entrepreneurial, user-focused innovation to make health information more accessible and to improve EHR usability.
The final version of the framework is expected to be published late this year.
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