Medical Groups Call for More EHR Interoperability

A group of healthcare associations says the government's current electronic health record (EHR) regulations are stifling needed innovation while failing to foster interoperability between new software systems.

A group of healthcare associations says the government’s current electronic health record (EHR) regulations are stifling needed innovation while failing to foster interoperability between new software systems.

In an open letter to US Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, the groups argue the current regulations have not created the ability to transfer data between systems and providers.

Instead, the systems tend to “lock-in” data, due to proprietary concerns on the part of health information technology companies, as well as HHS’ emphasis on other regulatory concerns.

The associations say only 14% of physicians are currently able to electronically transmit health data outside of their organizations.

“This dynamic is also in part due to the strict EHR certification requirements that have forced all the stakeholders involved to focus on meeting (Meaningful Use) measures as opposed to developing more innovative technological solutions that will enhance patient care and safety while growing the marketplace,” the letter states.

The associations want HHS to change its meaningful use requirements to place a greater emphasis on interoperability.

Overall, however, the associations say the government’s regulatory hand is too heavy. Many health IT systems have usability problems, causing concerns for both physicians and patients.

“[Y]et, their vendors are limited from addressing these concerns as they focus on meeting increasingly complex requirements,” the letter says.

In general, the groups say HHS should think more about flexibility, scalability, and open system architectures. They argue vendors and providers also need more time to implement the new technology, and to test it to ensure it actually meets their needs.

HHS recently released final MU rules, but the groups say the rules didn’t address interoperability and usability.

The signees of the letter were: the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, the Medical Group Management Association, the National Rural Health Association, the Memorial Healthcare System, the Mountain States Health Alliance, the Premier Healthcare Alliance, and the Summa Health System.