Note from the editor

After years of public and private efforts to tear down data silos in the healthcare system, the federal government in early 2020 finalized two sweeping rules prohibiting information blocking and standardizing EHR and software data exchange, just before the brunt of the pandemic swept the U.S.

Though industry supports interoperability in theory, pursuit of the goal — giving patients inexpensive access to and control over their own medical data, while enabling better care coordination and medical research — threatens entrenched interests and has made payers, providers and health IT companies skittish of the rules from the start.

But the regulations couldn't have come at a more pivotal time, as the COVID-19 public health crisis quickly highlighted the stark need for smoother data sharing systemwide.

Real-time data sharing could enable physicians to directly report COVID-19 testing and treatment data to public health registries, helping agencies to coordinate pandemic response. Patients could remotely access their medical records, speeding telehealth adoption and facilitating care in the home.

Though the regulations won't be fully enforced until 2023, some key compliance dates for the rules have already passed. For one, hospitals and EHR vendors have had to be able to exchange certain types of medical data with one another and with patients since April.

Regulators have yet to iron out some key final details of the regulations' fine print, including appropriate punishment for providers found blocking the free flow of information. But despite those lingering question marks, and ongoing concerns around protecting the privacy and security of highly sensitive patient data, the Biden administration has pledged it's full steam ahead on interoperability, suggesting those in the industry who want to avoid data sharing won't be able to do so much longer.

Rebecca Pifer Reporter

Anthem, Epic launch data-sharing partnership

• Published May 20, 2021

Full speed ahead on interoperability: Q&A with ONC head Micky Tripathi

Tripathi addressed what the government can do to build on the regulations, noting further delays are improbable.

• Published May 3, 2021

Predicting the future of healthcare: 10 takeaways from HIMSS21

Along with 'guarded optimism' on the current state of the pandemic, some 19,000 onsite attendees in Las Vegas mulled over what's next for AI, telehealth, cybersecurity, femtech and more.

Q&A with Philips' head of connected healthcare on new products, hospital tech adoption in the COVID-19 era

Roy Jakobs caught up with Healthcare Dive virtually on the sidelines of the massive health conference to chat about provider burden, interoperability and new products.

HHS 'making progress' on disincentives for providers found info blocking, ONC head says: HIMSS21

Long-awaited interoperability framework TEFCA to go live in 2022, ONC says

More hospitals letting patients send data to third-party apps: ONC

Providers supportive of push to overhaul HIPAA, but air serious concerns about data privacy, timing

"We urge OCR to reconsider implementing a massive change to patient privacy laws in the midst of this transition," AMA wrote in a comment on the Trump-era rule.

How interoperability is transforming healthcare

With the hit of the Coronavirus crisis, the acute need for interoperable health IT infrastructure in the U.S has become more apparent than ever. However, although industry supports interoperability in theory, pursuit of the goal threatens entrenched interests for payers, providers and health IT companies.

included in this trendline
  • Anthem, Epic launch data-sharing partnership
  • ONC benchmarks $2.5M for projects promoting interoperability
  • ONC chief Don Rucker's thoughts on the final information blocking rule
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.