Achieving better health outcomes at a lower cost and succeeding with payment reforms that shift from volume to value is difficult without health information technology (IT). Health IT can engage and support health care providers, patients, and consumers with access to timely and accurate clinical information from electronic health records (EHRs) and other sources. It can also provide access to cost and coverage information that avoids burdensome administrative processes and unexpected costs. Health IT can achieve these benefits through interoperability across information and data exchange platforms – avoiding duplicative parallel systems and additional data entry. Engaged patients and providers, supported by flexible, usable and useful health IT, can make informed shared decisions about testing and treatment which can lead to more timely, efficient, and higher-value health care.
The Meaningful Use (MU) program has led to substantial adoption of EHRs by health care providers across the U.S., with approximately half of providers now using an EHR that is MU certified. To achieve the promise of interoperability, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT recently announced a ten-year “Interoperability Roadmap” as the next step in its effort to promote more straightforward exchange of electronic health data for a wide range of clinical, administrative and public health purposes.
Despite this progress, significant gaps in practical interoperability remain. Many health care providers do not view health IT systems as a substantial benefit to the quality or ease of their patient care work. Further, existing health IT tools and information flows are not yet supporting consistent, efficient delivery of high value care. Consequently, concerns remain that the current approach to MU and interoperability will not be sufficient to enable the changes in information flow and technology necessary to achieve the promise of health IT.
This policy brief details several major challenges with existing health IT policy, and also describes policy recommendations to address these issues. The main goals of these recommendations are: (1) to align health IT efforts directly with other major payment reforms and policies to support higher value care and (2) ensure better health outcomes for patients, and (3) implement data standards for the most important information to support care improvement in particular areas of clinical practice.