Speakers Encourage Data Sharing at Health Datapalooza Conference

June 3, 2015 in News

Expanding access to health information and making it more useful for patients and providers is key to improving care quality, according to experts at this week’s Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C., Modern Healthcare reports.

For example, several speakers, including former National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari and Health Collaborative CEO Craig Brammer, highlighted the effect health data sharing could have on reducing costly emergency department visits.

Mostashari noted that eliminating patients’ unnecessary hospital visits should be at the top of providers’ minds, adding that a provider who receives a notification about a patient visiting the ED should see that as a financial loss and a missed opportunity to provide care for the patient.

He said providers’ main focus should be quality of care, instead of focusing on the traditional fee-for-service mindset of how they can see the most patients.

Meanwhile, Brammer noted that patients often visit EDs without their primary care physicians’ knowledge. If providers instead received electronic notices when their patients arrived in EDs, they could be more proactive in managing their patients’ care in the future, according to Brammer. He noted that Cincinnati has a system in place that allows doctors to receive an electronic notice when their patients are registered at a hospital, even if the hospital is a competitor.

Other speakers at the conference said that data sharing should expand beyond local providers. For example, Jonathan Mathieu, chief economist at the Center for Improving Value in Health Care, said widespread data sharing can help consumers and providers to compare health care quality and price metrics in their own regions. He said there are “[a] lot of really neat things … going on at the local, regional and state levels,” adding, “We need to leverage those things” (Green, Modern Healthcare, 6/1).

CMS Creates Email Address To Report Data Blocking

In related news, CMS acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at the conference announced that the agency has created an email address that patients, providers and others can use to report information blocking practices, Modern Healthcare reports (Green, Modern Healthcare, 6/2).

In April, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a report that found some health IT vendors and health care providers are intentionally blocking the sharing of patient information, impeding progress toward a national data sharing goal.

In the report, ONC listed several complaints that it has received, including that vendors have:

  • Charged high fees to establish connections and share patient records;
  • Required customers to use proprietary platforms; and
  • Made it prohibitively costly to change EHR systems (iHealthBeat, 4/15).

During the conference, Slavitt said, “I want to hear and understand information-blocking practices you’ve experienced,” adding, “Data blocking will not be tolerated.” CMS officials will follow up on the emails, which can be sent to noinformationblocking@cms.hhs.gov, according to Slavitt.

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo during the conference noted that federal officials are “going to be calling on the private sector to commit to [openness] … in a more public fashion — to say that [blocking is] not okay.” However, she acknowledged that solving the issue will be complicated.

Brammer, who previously served on a team that pushed for open and portable electronic health records at ONC, agreed with DeSalvo, saying, “If you’re a hospital CEO in the past, you didn’t think about, ‘How am I going to make it easier for my customers to go to my competitor?’ It makes perfect economic sense to be where we are today” (Modern Healthcare, 6/2).

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