HHS’ HIE Policy Lacks Sufficient Regulatory Guidelines, GAO Says

March 25, 2014 in News

Providers and stakeholders are facing challenges associated with health information exchange because of a lack of uniform standards from HHS, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 3/25).

Report Details, Findings

For the report, GAO interviewed stakeholders in:

  • Georgia;         
  • Massachusetts;
  • Minnesota; and
  • North Carolina (Howell, Washington Times, 3/24).

The report found that providers in the surveyed states face four main challenges to using HIEs:

  • Concerns about variation in states’ privacy regulations;
  • Costs;
  • Difficulty matching patients with their records; and
  • Inadequate standards.

In August 2013, HHS, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT developed and issued guidelines for advancing electronic health information exchange.

However, the GAO report found that the guidelines fail to specify “principles intended to guide future actions to address the key challenges that providers and stakeholders have identified” (Health Data Management, 3/25).

In addition, HHS has not provided details on “how any actions should be prioritized, what milestones the actions need to achieve or when these milestones need to be accomplished,” according to GAO.

GAO noted that a lack of coordinated care and regulatory standards “can lead to inappropriate or duplicative tests and procedures that increase health care spending” anywhere from $148 billion to $226 billion annually.

Recommendations, HHS Response

GAO recommended that the agency develop more specific goals and a clearer timeline.

In response, HHS said it already has begun addressing GAO’s recommendations. The agency added that electronic health information exchange “will be critical for the success of health care delivery system reforms” under the Affordable Care Act (Washington Times, 3/24).

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