Groups Support Interoperability Provisions in 21st Century Cures

June 26, 2015 in News

On Tuesday, a coalition of 31 organizations sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, voicing its support for the interoperability language included in the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6), Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 6/26).


In May, the committee released an updated draft of the 21st Century Cures Act that included provisions to alter FDA’s oversight of health software products. In addition, the updated draft filled placeholders for several provisions, such as those related to interoperability (iHealthBeat, 5/20).

Under the updated draft:

  • HHS would receive $10 million to work with a “charter organization” to create metrics to evaluate the state of interoperability within the U.S. health care system;
  • In July 2016, officials would release a report detailing whether interoperability has been achieved and the extent to which electronic health record vendors’ software is interoperable; and
  • On Dec. 31, 2017, HHS would release a report detailing whether certain vendors’ EHR software was in compliance with particular interoperability certification requirements.

In January 2018, vendors would have to confirm that their EHR software complies with several interoperability provisions, including:

  • Certain financial details on the pricing of transmitting data;
  • Having application programming interfaces that provide instructions on how to access EHR data to outside users and developers; and
  • Meeting HHS’ standard of allowing “everyday” data exchange.

Vendors that fail to comply with such standards would risk having their software decertified for use under the meaningful use program. Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

However, the bill gives HHS the authority to provide one- to five-year hardship exemptions to providers whose EHR software becomes decertified (iHealthBeat, 5/14).

Letter Details

In the letter, the coalition of providers, patient advocates, payers and vendors praised the effort to “address the known defects associated with interoperability.”

The letter noted that while the majority of eligible hospitals and professionals use certified EHRs, just 14% of providers share health data outside their organization.

However, the coalition noted that the 21st Century Cures Act is “a major positive step in fixing the problems associated with a lack of interoperability.”

The coalition said that it supports:

  • Distinct definitions of common standards;
  • Industry-developed standards;
  • Open APIs; and
  • Testing (Health Data Management, 6/26).

Committee Unveils New Draft

In related news, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday released a new version of the 21 Century Cures Act, Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” reports.

According to “Morning eHealth,” the new 1,027-page draft did not include any major changes to language regarding interoperability, health software regulation or telehealth. However, it added language to:

  • Emphasize the importance of long-distance care; and
  • Encourage the federal government to avoid unnecessary regulation (Allen et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 6/26).
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