At a recent senate committee hearing, stakeholders stressed the importance of requiring the use of open APIs in ONC information blocking regulations.
Ensuring healthcare providers and health IT vendors adopt data standards to support application programming interfaces should be a top priority when finalizing an ONC proposed rule about information blocking, according to stakeholders at a recent Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing.
Industry experts including Pew Charitable Trusts Health Information Technology Project Director Ben Moscovitch, Omada Health Chief Privacy and Regulatory Officer Lucia Savage, and others presented testimony before the committee about ways to implement the 21st Century Cures Act so that health data flows freely.
As drafted, the proposed rule on information blocking requires that insurers share patient health data with patients by January 1, 2020. Additionally, the rule requires that health IT vendors adopt data standards to support APIs two years after the rules are put in place.
The proposed rule also requires hospitals to send electronic notifications to providers immediately after a patient is admitted, discharged or transferred from the hospital.
Moscovitch testified that the proposed information blocking regulations have the potential to enable easier health data use, improve patient matching, promote patient safety, and reduce clinician burden.
Enforcing the use of APIs is key to achieving these benefits, Moscovitch said.
“APIs are the foundation of the modern internet,” said Moscovitch.
“For APIs to be effectively used, different systems need to exchange data in the same way,” he added.
Encouraging widespread use of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard in health data exchange will help to ensure interoperability between different health IT systems.
“As ONC finalizes the rule, Congress should ensure the agency maintains its commitment to these standard APIs.”
Moscovitch also recommended ONC promote the use of data standards to improve patient matching accuracy.
“When data are exchanged, records may not be matched up to half of the time,” said Moscovitch. “Better standardization of data can improve match rates.”
“To improve matching, ONC should specify use of the postal service standard for address, and include other routinely collected elements like email address, which is already in half of records but not used for matching,” Moscovitch added.
Cementing patient safety as a priority during the implementation of Cures should also be a top priority for ONC, Moscovitch testified.
“The agency should embed safety in the usability aspects of the EHR Reporting Program,” he said.
Lucia Savage, Chief Privacy and Regulatory Officer of Omada Health, urged ONC to hold a wide range of health IT vendors to the regulations set forth by the information blocking rules. As written, only certified EHR vendors are held to information blocking standards.
“The proposed rule does not reach to health information technology in the emerging world of connected devices or software as a medical device,” said Savage. “And it seems to omit any non-certified EHR such as a lab or pharmacy electronic records system that is not certified.”
Ensuring all health IT vendors are held to the same standards in regards to information sharing will help to promote interoperability across health IT systems, healthcare organizations, and care settings.
Date: April 03, 2019