AHA Urges Congress To Improve Interoperability, Data Sharing

July 29, 2015 in News

Last week, the American Hospital Association sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to strengthen policies that will support interoperability and health data exchange, Health IT Security reports.

Letter Details

In the letter, AHA noted that many of the electronic health record systems used by hospitals and health systems:

  • Cost too much and are too complex to be sustainable;
  • Do not easily share data; and
  • Do not provide universal access to infrastructure, such as efficient exchange networks (Snell, Health IT Security, 7/28).

AHA outlined several recommendations aimed at improving interoperability, such as:

  • Conducting more pilots and demonstrations to test standards that support interoperability and ensure standards have clear implementation guidance before being included in federal regulations; and
  • Enacting policy changes that will “hold vendors accountable for the design and marketing of interoperable products” (AHA letter, 7/23).

However, AHA warned against adding additional policy drivers intended to encourage providers to share health data. AHA said such drivers would be unnecessary or even harmful “if they become overly prescriptive or contradict the larger set of payment incentives and quality initiatives in place.”

AHA added, “Similarly, heavy-handed sanctions on providers for failure to share information would be duplicative of the meaningful use requirements to share health information and could have unintended consequences.”

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

AHA also noted that Congress currently is considering cybersecurity issues and urged lawmakers to keep in mind that the health care industry already has federal statutes and regulations in place that govern information security, such as HIPAA.

AHA wrote, “The AHA strongly believes that improving the infrastructure to support secure data sharing in support of clinical care can be accomplished within the existing HIPAA requirements and the existing framework of cybersecurity policy” (Health IT Security, 7/28).

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