News Feature | September 2, 2014

EHRA Responds To Senate Committee Questions On Data

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

EHRA Committee Questions Answered

The Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) issued a letter earlier this month to Senate Finance Committee Chair, Ron Wyden, and Committee Member, Chuck Grassley.

The letter was issued in response to the senators’ direct request for comments on the “availability and utility of healthcare data, while considering the need to maintain and protect patient privacy.”

The letter begins with an explanation of the importance that data plays in the modern healthcare environment, “As you know, health IT is a powerful tool that can support the transition of our health system toward a value-based model focused on improved health outcomes, while encouraging innovative technologies to enhance care delivery, making it more efficient, effective, and affordable. Fundamentally, digitized health information enables the connection of patients and providers in different physical locations, empowers patients to become and remain active participants in their care, and provides ongoing patient-focused communication and support.”

It continues with an acknowledgement of the wide-reaching impact the use of EHRs and, specifically, national investment in the Meaningful Use (MU) Incentive program have had on the senators’ stated goals. It also calls out an increase in MU adoption among hospitals from 72 percent to 94 percent.

Most interestingly, the EHRA addressed four specific questions around the topic of healthcare data sharing.

What data sources should be made more broadly available?

  • Patient-generated and/or captured data
  • Provider-generated and/or captured data
  • Community data: Specifically population data including social determinants, lifestyle factors, etc.
  • Payer data: In the form of quality and outcomes data based on standardized coding systems and measures, medication and pharmacy data from pharmaceutical companies, and service and cost information from billing and payer systems

How, in what form, and for what purposes should this data be conveyed?

The letter acknowledges that, in general, data should follow the patient, with prioritization of where the information is needed to provide clinical services. It also stresses the importance of patients deciding who and why data can be used. It goes on to emphasize a need to differentiate between identified and de-identified data. The association also highlights the importance of the use of health information exchanges (HIEs), software APIs, and warns against the over-simplification of centralized data stores.

What reforms would help reduce the unnecessary fragmentation of healthcare data? What reforms would improve the accessibility and usability of healthcare data for consumers, payers, and providers?

Most specifically, the letter mentions the importance of focusing on standardizing common data elements, through standards development organizations. It also mentions payment reforms, such as value-based reimbursement.

What barriers stand in the way of stakeholders using existing data sources more effectively and what reforms should be made to overcome these barriers?

The lack of a nationwide patient data matching strategy is highlighted in this section. The association states that it would ensure the accurate, timely and efficient matching of patients with their data across different care settings and systems. It would also aid in the improvement of patient safety and data interoperability.

Go Deeper

The full letter and question responses can be viewed here

Additionally, see this article on ACO opportunities for solutions providers.