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March 9, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DOCTORS APPLAUD ONC’S NEW PATIENT RECORDS ACCESS RULES
New Interoperability Rules Will Be Healthy for Independent Doctors and Patients
Winter Park, Fla. – In a major step toward putting patients in control of their own health care and giving independent doctors freedom to provide better medicine, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services today released new interoperability rules that will give patients and their doctors easy access to their comprehensive electronic health information.
The long-awaited and landmark set of rules will remove barriers that independent doctors say have prevented them from having the same access to information that doctors employed by major health systems have.
Jointly issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the rules implement interoperability provisions of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. They require electronic health record (EHR) vendors, hospital systems, and networks holding patients’ information to enable portability of that data. Now technology innovators can develop apps that will provide patients easy, unobstructed digital access to their own health information.
Currently, EHR vendors, hospital systems, and networks control patient data through what’s known in the industry as “information blocking.” Their cumbersome systems make gaining access to health records difficult if not impossible for patients and doctors outside the system, said Marni Jameson Carey, executive director of the Association of Independent Doctors, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan trade organization.
“Today’s health IT has built walls, not bridges, but with this ruling, those structures are coming down,” Carey said. “Hospital systems, in their desire to own market share by employing physicians, use EHR not as a tool but as a weapon, to exclude independent doctors, who often have trouble accessing electronic health records from other providers and systems,” she said.
The system locks patient information up in health-system silos, which drives consolidation, contributing to higher health-care costs, she said.
“Electronic health records are among doctors’ major frustrations,” said Dr. Daniel Layish, an independent Orlando-based pulmonologist, who welcomed the news. “Lack of electronic record sharing has driven many doctors out of private practice and into hospital employment, because doctors don’t know which EHR systems to invest in, and worry that their investment won’t mesh with the ones the health systems in their area use. Moreover, not being able to access a new patient’s records puts us at a disadvantage, and can lead to duplicate, unnecessary tests.”
Independent doctors are known to provide lower-cost, often higher value care than that found in health systems, said Carey, who joins other health advocates applauding the news.
“These rules will lay the infrastructure of the healthcare information highway, finally putting the patient in the driver’s seat,” said Cynthia Fisher, founder of PatientRightsAdvocate.org, an ardent champion of price transparency and data access for consumers.
“These new rules mark a giant step forward for patients by putting them at the center of their care,” Fisher said. “When patients have their whole health picture in hand, and can give complete information to their health-care providers, they will save time and money, gain wider access to better care, and avoid duplicate testing. When armed with complete information, doctors will be able to provide more accurate diagnoses and better treatments. Ultimately, these rules will save lives.”
“Currently, health IT is about coding and billing, which benefits health systems, insurers, and health IT vendors,” said Carey. “This ruling will start a move toward EHR that is actually patient and doctor centric.”
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About the Association of Independent Doctors
Founded in 2013, the Association of Independent Doctors is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping reduce health-care costs by helping consumers, businesses and lawmakers understand the value of keeping America’s doctors independent. The nonpartisan trade association has more than 1,000 members in over 40 states. AID is a 501(c)(6) based in Winter Park, Fla. www.aid-us.org.