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Health IT Update: ACP Champions Efforts That Put Patients Before Paperwork

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ACP members, staff participate in discussions on interoperability, patient privacy and workflow management

Feb. 7, 2020 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians is working behind the scenes to advance information technology (IT) initiatives aimed at promoting interoperability between electronic health records (EHRs) while protecting patient privacy and managing physician workflow.

In late January, ACP participated in four events and panels including the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) annual meeting. Discussed at the meeting were two proposed rules on interoperability and information blocking, which are under review at the Office of Management and Budget. The first rule is an interoperability and patient access rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the second is an interoperability and information blocking rule from the ONC. These rules intend to ease the exchange of data between systems and penalize vendors who block the ready flow of information.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we hope the final rules will be released imminently, but some concerns about privacy remain,” explained Brooke Rockwern, ACP's associate of health IT policy. Specifically, some EHR vendors have voiced concern that Application Programming Interfaces, which help software programs communicate with one another and promote interoperability, may compromise privacy, she said.

At this meeting, “ACP participated in discussions about balancing privacy with access to data and how to better educate physicians and patients on ways to navigate the changing environment,” she said. There were also promising discussions on public and private efforts to rein in the burdensome prior authorization process.

At the Electronic Health Record Association Usability Summit, stakeholders, including Dr. Lisa Ellis, a member of ACP's Medical Informatics Committee, worked through usability issues with existing EHRs. “We are focused on fostering efforts that allow physicians to to document data based on the patient in front of them and not use EHRs just to fulfill billing or quality reporting requirements,” Rockwern said. This is in-line with ACP efforts to put patients before paperwork.

In related news, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Program Office hosted the Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs Industry Interoperability Roundtable focused on patient-generated health data from wearables and trackers. Providence, Rhode Island-based internist Dr. Ross Hilliard spoke on what these data may or may not mean to doctors.

“There is definitely a lot of potential for patient-generated health data to provide a broader picture of the patient allowing for improvements in care delivery and health outcomes, but there remain a number of concerns that need to be addressed before this data is incorporated into and exchanged across health IT systems,” Rockwern said. “Concerns include the sheer volume of the data, lack of information to suggest the validity of data from trackers/wearables, importance of provenance (metadata) to see where the data came from and when it was generated – all to help manage the ability of physicians and other clinicians to process and effectively use the information.”

ACP was also a member of the host committee for the Health IT Leadership Roundtable: Future of Interoperability and Secure Consumer Access to Healthcare Data. “We were active in helping plan the event and offered insights into discussion topics and speakers on panels,” Rockwern said. ACP member and chair of the Medical Informatics Committee, Dr. Zeshan Rajput, who is a physician informaticist and principal of the MITRE Corporation in Westwood, Massachusetts, spoke on a panel that addressed data standardization that supports consumer access.

The influx of these new data will change the way internists interact with patients and provide care. “Patients will have more access to data and health systems will hopefully be able to exchange that data more easily,” Rockwern said, “and we want to make sure that this data is provided in a meaningful format so that doctors can use it in a productive manner.”

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Back to the February 7, 2020 issue of ACP Advocate