Kushner Announces ‘Whole of Government’ Plan To Improve Health Tech

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Presidential adviser Jared Kushner said the administration has a plan to prioritize access to and interoperability of patient health data.

The Trump administration is set to begin a “whole of government” push toward digitizing medical health records and improving the interoperability of patient data, Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, said Tuesday.

The White House—and the Office of American Innovation, led by Kushner—is making “citizen access to health records and interoperability a top priority,” Kushner said during a keynote address at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Las Vegas.

“The time is now to align every facet of the federal government and the private sector to ensure information is communicated and shared seamlessly. Simply put, interoperability is about our shared bottom line: saving lives,” he said.

Incomplete medical histories and lack of patient data contribute to up to 400,000 deaths a year, Kushner said, likely citing a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety that ascribed as many deaths to medical errors, often due to records problems.

But this issue hits close to home for Kushner.

“Six months ago, a friend of mine’s mother passed away after she was rushed to the emergency room. She died from something that could have been preventable had her doctor had real-time access to her full medical records,” he told the audience.

He also said he was struck by the interoperability problems between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. The VA last summer announced its intention to restart its electronic health records efforts with a new vendor, Cerner, which manages the Defense Department’s digital health records. The agency has struggled to build an interoperable system over the last two decades, spending close to $2 billion without a positive result.

“This was a huge win for our service members,” Kushner said. “But the president is determined to make interoperability a reality for all Americans. This is an issue that impacts every hospital, care provider and patient in our country. Now that electronic health records have become digitized over the past decade, complete interoperability is the logical next step.”

Kushner said the administration spent the last six months talking to more than 100 stakeholders, including health care providers, health IT companies and patient advocacy groups. From that, they have developed an interagency plan to promote patient access to and interoperability of health data.

Kushner did not elaborate on the plan but said representatives from Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, VA and Defense would be introducing initiatives throughout the conference.

“This is the essence of our administration’s goals for health care. More decision-making in the hands of the customer. Medical data belongs to the patients,” he said. “Our vision will apply a whole of government approach that we hope will unleash private sector innovation. Together, we hope to lead a whole of country approach.”