HHS Says Health Records Should Communicate With Each Other. What Does That Mean?

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HHS wants your input on how to measure "interoperability."

When a patient moves from one health system to another, there’s no guarantee his or her electronic medical records are compatible with the new system’s.

The Department of Health and Human Services wants to change that, with a number of efforts aimed at making electronic health record technology more “interoperable.”

But how does a health system measure “interoperability,” and how does the department know if it’s successful? HHS doesn’t know the answer -- and it’s looking to the public for help.

In a new request for information, HHS is asking for input on metrics that could measure interoperability. The eventual goal, according a recent blog post, is a national system in which “health data flows seamlessly and securely.”

Specifically, HHS wants to know which “populations and elements of information” it should examine, how current data and metrics can be used to assess progress, and what new data and metrics HHS should include when sizing up a health system’s “interoperability” levels.

Currently, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is considering “nationally representative surveys,” gathered from hospitals and physicians, to assess progress, among other potential solutions, the RFI says.

The 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act aims to “achieve widespread exchange” of health records nationwide by Dec. 31, 2018, according to the RFI. It also tasks the HHS secretary with establishing metrics by which to measure progress by July 1.

HHS is collecting comment until June 5.