5 questions with Michael James McCoy, MD
February 25, 2015 in Medical Technology
On January 21, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced that Michael James McCoy, MD, would be the department’s Chief Health Information Officer, a newly created position. According to the announcement, Dr. McCoy will serve as the lead clinical subject matter expert on interoperability, and he has a background perfectly tailored to the task with experience both as a practicing physician and as a leader at theIHE for more than a decade.
Thanks to Dr. McCoy for answering the following questions about the new position and his vision for a learning health system.
Q. First, congratulations on the new appointment with the ONC. You previously practiced medicine and held various leadership positions in the private sector, what attracted you to working with the ONC and what vision do you hope to bring to the department as the industry moves into stage 3 of Meaningful Use?
ONC is at a crossroads, coming through a period where significant funding was applied to incentivize the adoption and use of basic electronic health information technology to one where the information can flow to help achieve better care, smarter spending of health care dollars, and healthier people. Now we need to make sure that the infrastructure we have established through the supports created in the HITECH Act can provide returns, with data and analytics capabilities that progress us, as a nation, toward a Learning Health System.
I had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time to be able to join ONC and the great team of people here to further the goals of improving health, health care, and reducing costs of health care delivery with a person-centric view. Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the National Coordinator for Health IT – my boss – continues to be supportive about the importance of health information technology as the tool to support achieving better health (not as an end unto itself).
I hope that my experience as a practicing clinician with early EMR use in the office, as someone with vendor and implementation experiences, and with system-level knowledge of the challenges for adoption and utilization of the data available, can provide a balanced perspective across ONC. There are many offices within ONC that have huge impacts on policies, procedures, rules, and regulations – way more than I realized before joining the team here! There is significant coordination required between the various teams, and Dr. DeSalvo has been working to ensure the views are balanced with senior clinical and legal/legislative perspectives applied.
My vision is that I may be impactful in advancing the notion of person-centric health, and in some small way, help influence the direction that our advancement to a Learning Health System takes. I fully embrace a person-centric concept, and think announced initiatives, including Precision Medicine, will continue taking our nation’s health system down that path.
Q. Karen DeSalvo was quoted as saying you would serve as the ‘lead clinical subject matter expert on interoperability.’ This brings to mind the inclusion of patient-generated health data into the medical record. How do you think the big questions about responsibility for the PGHD (e.g., Is the physician legally responsible to monitor the data? Are patients responsible for accuracy of reported data? etc.) will be resolved?
The subject of patient-generated health data (PHGD) has many complexities, but in reality, some of the biggest questions relate to similar concerns expressed by clinicians in reviewing “data dumps” from Transitions of Care (TOC) documents, or receiving old records from other physicians. Those concerns relate to the (receiving) physician missing some critical data element in the old record (whether paper or electronic) and their liability as a result of missing that information. There have been lawsuits on this with paper records, and now with electronic records, there is even more data (potentially) for a clinician (or attorney) to review. Whether the data comes from another EHR or from PHGD, there is some obligation for the clinician to review the information received. To what extent and how much data validation must occur (the trust or provenance of the data source) are not yet defined clearly. The legal requirements, the ethical requirements, and the practical requirements for that “minimum level of review” have not been fully established, nor has a consensus view been achieved on what is “right.” ONC is certainly not, in my view, the arbiter of such, though it could, through outreach and coordination and/or through its advisory committees, convene such discussions.
To me, the concerns, about PHDG misses the bigger picture: individuals are now beginning to drive their own health care decisions in a big, and growing exponentially bigger, way. If physicians do not choose to engage with the increased consumer demands, they may find themselves increasingly marginalized in the care delivery system.
This presents opportunities for developers and other technically savvy entrepreneurs to look at the challenge of filtering signals from the noise. Everyone is busy these days; finding the important e-mail amongst all the other e-mails and spam received is a great thing. Physicians want the same thing from the PHGD received, and from all of the other interactions with their health information technology (rules and alerts that make sense). Usability, and good (actionable) information, not just data or noise.