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EHR vendors slammed for interoperability struggles

Kenneth Corbin | July 27, 2015
Senior officials in the healthcare sector took aim at the tech companies that provide electronic health records (EHR) yesterday, saying that many of those vendors employ proprietary standards and deceptive strategies to lock providers into their products and keep systems from communicating with one another.

Kendrick is calling on the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT to step up its oversight of the EHR market to help weed out bad actors that unfairly block the movement of health information.

Paul Black, president and CEO of AllScripts, offers a tepid defense of the EHR community, observing that while "the current narrative on interoperability is often negative," there are plenty of examples of systems talking to each other and smoothly relaying data.

He urges a light-touch approach from Congress and the ONC, appealing to allow the standards in place to take hold before imposing new ones. He envisions that interoperability will improve as payments begin to incentivize data mobility in EHRs.

"It is true that not all stakeholders seem to be equally motivated to make information liquid, and sluggish exchange largely stems from one massive gap -- the lack of a strong business case for interoperability in healthcare," Black says. "A payment system that has been in place for decades does not motivate them to create an interconnected healthcare environment."

Murray acknowledges that the sensitive nature of the data stored in EHRs might make companies reluctant to easily share data, but she points to a recent ONC report that identified numerous instances of deliberate information blocking, an issue she and Alexander are working to address in legislation they are currently developing.

"It's important to make clear there are some legitimate reasons that a vendor might limit the exchange of health information -- patient privacy, or unanticipated technological challenges," Murray says. However, "there's substantial evidence that some organizations are intentionally setting up barriers between their systems and other systems, or overcharging, or creating technical or legal barriers to providers who want to access information through the system they purchase -- or both of those. To me, these efforts to knowingly interfere with access to patients' health information is completely unacceptable."

 

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