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'Just The Beginning': HIMSS Attendees React to Interoperability Proposal

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   February 12, 2019

Many conference attendees have said they see some good ideas in the HHS proposal, as well as a long road ahead.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Those attending the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference this week have had plenty to say about the Trump administration's proposed rule to promote interoperability of electronic health information.

The administration announced the proposal Monday to require health plans to begin giving patients immediate access to their medical records free of charge no later than next year. Officials touted the plan as empowering patients to make informed care decisions as consumers.

But most of the people I've spoken with at HIMSS have said the proposal is merely the starting line.

"It's a great idea, but it's just the beginning," says Brent Hicks, senior director of clinical and digital architecture at the Cleveland Clinic. "There's a very long way to go."

The proposal includes two separate rules that track closely with one another, one developed by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the other developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Nick Hatt, a senior developer from Madison, Wisconsin-based Redox, offered three big takeaways from his reading of the two-part Health and Human Services proposal:

1. FHIR Is Written Into The Policy Proposal

Both the ONC and CMS rules explicitly mention Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards to update existing criteria for Application Programming Interfaces (API).

"Before there was a very vague API rule," Hatt says. "Now they've sort of chosen FHIR and they've gotten much more specific with what they call terminology and vocabulary. So above just using FHIR, they're saying, 'this is how you should code a gender, this is how you should code a race,'—which is the next step to be on FHIR, so [this is] cool progress to see."

2. The Proposal Focuses More on Payers Than EHR Vendors

Rather than trying to force FHIR on electronic health record (EHR) vendors, this policy is focusing on requirements for payers, Hatt says.

"I think it's a good first step," he adds.

3. Rural Hospitals Could Be Better Connected

Hatt also expresses excitement about a provision in the CMS proposal that would require hospitals to make electronic patient event notifications available to other providers and healthcare facilities.

"So if somebody gets admitted to a rural hospital, the larger ecosystem can see it," he says. "I think that's kind of an awesome initiative and that's the kind of levers I like to see the government move is [getting] smaller hospitals to do things that can help patients bridge the gap."

Editor's note: Steven Porter contributed to this report. The article was been updated on Feb. 14 to include the correct location for Redox.

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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