This is the third blog post in our National Health IT Week series.
As the two year anniversary of the historic 21st Century Cures Act quickly approaches, it is vital to look back on the past months and examine its effectiveness in improving interoperability in healthcare.
One focal area of research that the bill seeks to remedy is the practice of information blocking. This occurs when healthcare technology companies place certain restrictions on the ability of the user to share information outside of their platform. This practice hinders progress by restricting interoperability, while also taking agency away from the patients, as they become second-class owners of their health data. The bill identifies information blocking as a major problem area and yet there have been zero regulations passed in the past 21 months since the Act’s passing. This is a major cause for concern, as patients are being robbed of the best possible care, while technology companies continue to grow their datasets behind their clouds of exclusivity.
Despite the lack of administrative action, there have still been some signs of collaboration sprouting from the Act’s passing. One promising advancement has been the widespread adoption of FHIR. FHIR has become the new standard for information exchange, with its high adoption-rate signifying a shift in the healthcare field toward a desire for interoperability.
Almost all of the major EHR vendors have issued statements regarding interoperability, with most demonstrating that they have been pursuing data exchange for many years, even before the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act. To them, the concerns regarding interoperability have been blown out of proportion. This stems from the fact that there is no true consensus regarding the definition of information blocking, and the line between good business practices and malicious data-hoarding has become blurred. This idea has sprouted the formation of numerous healthcare IT companies focused on the ability to power the exchange of information. By taking the pressure off of EHR vendors, this trend has allowed these new companies to handle the security and function of the exchange, which has helped to improve patient care.
It is imperative that healthcare technology companies come together to put an end to the practice of information blocking and anything that even closely resembles it. Collaboration will be the driving force behind the next frontier of medical advancements, and the legal framework to support it has already been put in place. Now is a time for action, and together we can take healthcare to a place it has never been, a place of collaboration and harmony.