Should vendors and providers be forced to share information?

The forthcoming regulations require more rigorous data exchange between healthcare providers, and the ONC is considering how best to implement interoperability without damaging the autonomy of healthcare IT vendors.

The ONC submitted a report to Congress on April 9 about the challenge of health information blocking, defined as when an individual knowingly and unreasonable blocks the transmission of health information. Blocking the exchange of data between systems is a barrier to interoperability, and the ONC is considering stronger enforcement of data exchange.

However, forcing health IT developers and healthcare organizations to exchange information can contradict market forces and limit competition, the FTC said in its public comments to the ONC.

Should vendors and providers be forced to share information? Healthcare executives at the HIMSS15 Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago weighed in.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Continue to check back throughout the conference for more responses.

Joel Vengco, Vice President and CIO of Baystate Health (Springfield, Mass.): "A McKinsey Study done back in 2012 stated that because the data is locked in these data sources and these vendors' systems, there's a $40 billion market that's possible in healthcare. That tells you there's so much more innovation to be done if only the data was available. I don't think that vendors, or providers for that matter, should feel like they're competing on the data because the data doesn't do much unless you do something with it. I think they should let the data be out there and compete on things like applications and work flow and features and functions.

Right now, everybody in this industry, vendors and providers, don't want interoperability because they believe [stifled competition] to be the case. It's the furthest thing from the truth. We're actually doing healthcare and patients a large disservice because letting the data flow or working with the data to create the solutions."

Timothy Smith, Principal and National Leader of Healthcare Information Technology, Deloitte: "In a de-identified way, yes. For what use, though, needs to be explored. IF it's the software vendor looking to be able to resell that data so they can sell more, sell analytics, sell benchmarking, then it doesn't feel like it's very fair to the provider side unless there's some other economic incentive to them. The question would be, are the vendors really the best at being the ones to do something with that data or is it just sharing research and other things? I think there are some health systems that are out there now thinking, 'How do I marketize the data I've collected over the years to be able to have another health system benchmark themselves?' It's an interesting market, but I'm not sure the health systems will agree the vendors are the best keepers of that data."

Ed Park, Executive Vice President and COO, athenahealth: "I'll offer an analogy. Today when you log into [travel booking website] Kayak, you can actually book the flight anywhere from any one of a dozen different airlines. You can book a hotel from 100 different hotels, and it's a seamless experience that's actually focused on you. The question is how did that come to be? The government didn't go to all the travel agencies saying, 'Thou shalt open up your bookings [application programming interfaces] to Kayak.' What they found is that the traveler actually wanted to have a single central place where they could access all of their data, and everything flew downhill from there. It was the opposite of the way we've been trying to do it for healthcare for the past 10 years, which is to force building bridges...that nobody wants to cross. The next generation of patients are beginning to expect the ability to access their own patient information through a patient portal. There are a number of Gen X'ers you talk to these days that say, 'I would actually switch my provider if they didn't give me access to my health provider online or didn't let me schedule myself online.' That's a natural market force that gets health systems to say, 'I will in fact open up access to my records.'"

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