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Healthcare Companies Commit to Improving Health Information Flow

At this year’s Health Information Management Systems Society conference, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced that all major Health information technology developers and the top health systems have all pledged to implement three core commitments to help improve the flow of healthcare data to consumers and healthcare providers. A pledge has now been made by 17 health IT developers, 16 health systems, and 17 provider, technology, and consumer organizations.

Seven of the biggest healthcare systems providing healthcare services in 46 states are all on board, with Community Health Systems, Hospital Corporation of America, Tenet Healthcare, Ascension Health, Trinity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, and Kaiser Permanente all having committed to improving health information sharing, as are the Health IT companies responsible for providing 90% of EHRs used by U.S. hospitals.

All have agreed to help improve consumer access to healthcare records, implement national interoperability standards, and will not to engage in information blocking.

At the conference, Burwell said “These commitments are a major step forward in our efforts to support a healthcare system that is better, smarter, and results in healthier people.”

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To improve consumer access, the technology companies have agreed to use a standardized application programming interface and will adopt a single standard to enable health information to be easily shared with one another. Health Level 7 Fast Health Care Interoperability Resources (FHIR) will also be used to facilitate data exchange. The aim is to make it much easier for consumers to access their electronic health records, such as medical test results, and communicate electronically with their healthcare providers.

The Interoperability Standards Advisory will also be embraced to improve collaboration between healthcare providers and to facilitate the sharing of EHRs. They healthcare providers have also agreed to adopt privacy and security best practices to ensure health data is appropriately safeguarded.

Three quarters of physicians and almost all hospitals have now implemented EHRs. Now efforts must be made to ensure that those EHRs are capable of communicating with each other. A fully interoperable health system is still some way off, but the pledge to implement these three core commitments by so many health systems and EHR vendors is a major step in the right direction.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.