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Anti-info Blocking Crusade in Congress Must be Curbed

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   December 01, 2015

It's clear that there's no easy way to share patient health data, but to turn to the last resort of heavy government regulation seems an ill-considered remedy.

Even though there is ample evidence that hospital providers themselves are the biggest source of information blocking, the inability for patients' electronic health records to follow them wherever they receive care, allegation persists that EHR vendors, Epic in particular, are a major part of the problem.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology brought fresh credence to this allegation in its April 2015 report to Congress. "As more fully defined in this report, information blocking occurs when persons or entities knowingly and unreasonably interfere with the exchange or use of electronic health information," the report states.

Should the Feds Fix Interoperability?

"In 2014, ONC received approximately 60 unsolicited reports of potential information blocking. In addition, ONC staff reviewed many additional anecdotes and accounts of potential information blocking found in various public records and testimony, industry analyses, trade and public news media, and other sources," the report says.

Daniel Barchi

It found a wide variation in fees charged by a number of EHR software providers to permit information to flow to and from their EHR software. Perhaps it comes as no coincidence that the same month that ONC issued its report, Epic announced it would waive its transaction fees for information flow, and Cerner announced it would waive similar fees to exchange data through its connections to Commonwell Alliance through the end of 2017.

Recently, I became aware of a new freely available exchange between Epic and Yale-New Haven Hospital, about six months ago. The hospital, which runs Epic, now integrates the Athenanet network with Epic's CareEverywhere record-sharing network.

Implementation is 'Challenging Work'
Today, Yale-New Haven Hospital physicians are able to see Athena-generated CCDs appear in CareEverywhere's list of organizations containing CCDs about the patient in question (albeit listed under "other organizations," rather than "Epic organizations").

"Implementing these large, integrated EMRs and making all the connections is challenging work," says Daniel Barchi, who until Monday was chief information officer at Yale-New Haven Hospital. (Today, Dec 1, is his first day as CIO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, taking the place of retiring CIO, Aurelia Boyer.)

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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