Advancing Health Information Exchange Is Focus of Agency Strategy

New Principles Will Guide HHS Decisions on Health IT

August 16, 2013 01:15 pm News Staff
[Stock photo of finger pointing to x-ray highlighting spine / prescription pad]

CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT recently released a report that outlines the federal government's strategy( for accelerating the progress of health information exchange (HIE) nationwide.

In response to solicited public comments, HHS identified the need for a set of principles to guide a comprehensive effort across HHS agencies to accelerate HIE. HHS intends to use those principles to guide future decisions about health care programs and policies. The principles will help provide a framework against which the agency can examine the establishment and implementation of programs and policies that move beyond electronic health record incentive programs and the ONC's health information technology certification program.

Story highlights
  • HHS asked for input from the public on how to accelerate health information exchange (HIE) and received 200 responses, including guidance from the AAFP.
  • CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT mined the information they received and developed a set of principles to guide future actions.
  • The principles are grouped into three categories: accelerating HIE, advancing standards and interoperability, and furthering consumer/patient engagement.

Last March, HHS posted a request for information in the Federal Register( that sought public input on how to strengthen the exchange of electronic health information. The department received some 200 responses, one of which was a letter from AAFP Board Chair Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash. The letter to the ONC included a list of Academy objectives for consideration.

CMS and ONC personnel developed a set of principles that eventually were organized into three categories: accelerating HIE, advancing standards and interoperability, and furthering consumer/patient engagement.

For example, to speed up the pace of the nation's embrace of electronic exchange of health information, HHS plans to, among other things,

  • ensure that a patient's health information follows him or her to wherever he or she accesses care;
  • encourage interoperability across states' electronic information infrastructures;
  • educate consumers, including those who come from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, about the benefits of HIE; and
  • support the privacy, security and integrity of patient health information.

To advance standards and interoperability, HHS intends to

  • advance multistakeholder development of standards;
  • accelerate interoperability through the adoption of health IT standards via a variety of policies and programs;
  • align, when appropriate, health IT standards for quality measurement and improvement across Medicare and Medicaid programs;
  • accelerate alignment and implementation of clinical quality measures, decision support interventions, and reporting mechanisms in electronic formats;
  • develop standards and policies to enable electronic management of consent and HIE among health care professionals treating patients whose health data are "sensitive" (e.g., includes behavioral health conditions); and
  • strengthen data provenance to improve the level of confidence health care professionals have in original sources of data they receive.

Lastly, to encourage consumer and patient engagement, HHS will

  • ensure that policies and programs support patients' access to their personal health information,
  • support appropriate access to patients' health information by family caregivers, and
  • make HHS standardized data available to patients wherever possible.

"HHS is committed to an incremental, yet comprehensive and strategic approach to accelerating different types of HIE in support of care coordination, quality improvement and value-based payment," says the report.

The principles outlined in the report also were discussed in a CMS-sponsored webinar on Aug. 7; slides used in that webinar are available online(

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