AHA message to Congress on EHR policy changes: 10 key takeaways

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Health information exchange is a cornerstone of the healthcare system of the future, AHA representatives wrote in a letter to Congress on July 23. However, for HIE to be effective, the policy framework for cybersecurity and interoperability needs to be laid out now, as many aspects of the necessary infrastructure are missing altogether.

For the AHA, this includes allowing hospitals more flexibility under meaningful use and acknowledging that CMS' Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs have become highly proscriptive and hold hospitals accountable for events outside of their control.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the AHA's "Achieving the Promise of Health Information Technology: Information Blocking and Potential Solutions" letter to Congress.

1. While AHA members are actively engaged in building IT systems that are considerate of the vital role of information exchange in care improvement, many hospitals and health systems report that their EHRs do not easily share information.

2. Many of these same hospitals report that the cost and complexity of the interfaces their systems would need to connect efficiently with information exchanges and other systems are not sustainable.

3. Existing market pressures are motivating information sharing and will continue to do so in the coming years as payment systems move from volume to value and customer demand for information increases.

4. The AHA strongly opposes any information blocking sanctions on providers beyond those in the existing EHR Incentive Programs and recommends the existing structures be used to promote sharing.

5. The certified EHRs hospitals were required to purchase under the incentive programs do not meet the mark for information sharing to improve care and support new models of care.

6. Given that hospitals and other providers are required to use certified EHRs, the AHA believes policy changes are needed to hold vendors accountable for the design and marketing of interoperable products.

7. At a minimum, the ONC must fix the certification program for EHRs so that vendor products go through rigorous testing that reflects real-world conditions.

8. The sharing of health information among providers would be greatly facilitated if the federal government supported the creation of provider directories that are publicly available to authorized users.

9. The need to resolve the issue of how to match patients with their medical records is urgent. The AHA recommends the creation of a nationally unique identifier system to connect records.

10. The AHA believes that strongly improving the infrastructure to support secure data sharing in support of clinical care can be accomplished within the existing HIPAA requirements and existing framework of cybersecurity policy.

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