CHIME to Senate: 6 health IT challenges and solutions

In a July 1 letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, representatives of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives addressed concerns about health information technology in five use cases.

1. The technology should help providers improve patient safety and care.
2. It needs to facilitate open information exchange between EHR vendors and providers.
3. Health IT should include convenient, user-friendly means for patients to engage in their own care by providing secure access to their personal health information.
4. Health IT capabilities should be leveraged to improve patient safety.
5. The privacy and security of patient data and health information should be top priority.

Here are the six major challenges and solutions for meeting those use cases, as presented by CHIME.

1. Challenge: The accurate and efficient matching of patients with their healthcare data is a significant threat to patient safety.

Solution: Remove the Congressional prohibition levied on HHS annually since 1999, prohibiting the use of federal funds for the development of a unique patient identifier.

2. Challenge: Several trends are converging to reduce fee-for-service reimbursement, but misalignments among quality reporting programs and technical barriers threaten the ability for policymakers to determine quality through electronic metrics.

Solution: Increase efficiency in quality reporting to alleviate strains of provider time and resources. The harmonization of quality reporting mandates should extend to the specific CQM, how the CQM is reported, and to whom it is reported.

3. Challenge: Without data standards, the digital health ecosystem will not realize its full potential to lower healthcare costs and improve care quality.

Solution: The federal government should drive the identification and use of standards in priority areas to ensure providers are capturing and exchanging data in the same fashion.

4. Challenge: ONC Certification does not guarantee health IT systems are interoperable.

Solution: Congressional action is needed to ensure that ONC dutifully reexamines its certification program and incorporates more robust interoperability testing in future Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) Edition updates.

5. Challenge: Providers and hospitals have been unable to demonstrate the value of the patient portal function mandated by the Meaningful Use Program.

Solution: Encourage innovation in CMS' policies to represent the patient interests in mandated engagement.

6. Challenge: Inconsistencies in consent policies and state privacy laws hinder the exchange of health information.

Solution: Congress should lead an open dialogue to help states align privacy and consent policies that enable interstate exchange of health information in a secure manner. This should include reexamining or providing clear guidance on certain provisions of HIPAA.

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