HHS’ New Interoperability Rules

After much saber-rattling, two new interoperability rules proposed by HHS were finalized in early March. These new rules aim to give all patients access to their data, something the government has been eager to do for quite some time.

Are Patients Ready for Their Data?

It remains to be seen how badly patients really want all their data and how ready we are as patients to deal with the consequences of our data being freely available to us.

Can you remember the last time you read and tried to understand a data-use agreement? I can’t remember ever doing that, but I am not much of a reader. Maybe if companies started offering an audio version of their consent agreements, I would pay more attention. (That might just be the launch of new industry!)

If I were a betting man (I am not, at least not anymore), I would bet that most patients are like me. In my perfect scenario, I would be most happy if I showed up for an appointment with my doctor and did not have to fill out 10 forms. When I would be called back for my consultation, the doctor would then walk in and say, “I looked at your recent history,” ask me a few questions, and then tell me to lose some weight and remove all the stress from my life. Then I would be sent on my way. This scenario would make me way happier than having all my health data on my phone; I might accidentally text all my information to someone or lose my phone all together.

It seems evident that many companies are going to want patient data for their own purposes. The concern I have is that I don’t see much in the rules about the third-party applications being held responsible for how they use or protect patient data. (Maybe I missed that part due to my reading impediment.)

Now, I want to acknowledge that for some patients and families, having all their health data easily accessible would be a game changer. I really hope these new rules make a difference for them.

Interoperability Silos

One of the problems we have when discussing interoperability is that we typically speak in silos without any real context of the full picture which is what gives meaning to interoperability. For example, the number of documents sent are often quoted as an indicator of interoperability. The new rules see interoperability as giving patients access to their records. KLAS has focused our interoperability research on exchanging patient records between EMRs. APIs are talked about a lot as interoperability, especially FHIR. Those focuses are fine, but they are incomplete silos. You have to essentially pick your favorite focus and triangulate to get understanding.

To help provide context to the interoperability discussions, KLAS is planning on holding an interoperability summit to define a framework around interoperability requirements. Our hope is that the framework will enable the industry to look at the whole of interoperability and break out of our current siloed discussions. It should also allow KLAS to measure the reality of each vendor’s interoperability strengths and weaknesses and assess their interoperability capabilities as a whole. 




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