Are We Getting Closer to Full Health-Data Exchange?


The health-care information technology holy grail has always been to develop a seamless, national infrastructure for electronically exchanging health-care data, and a newly formed federal committee might help reach that goal.

The Government Accountability Office recently appointed 15 members to the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee, and their first order of business is likely to focus on health-care data exchange, also known as interoperability, Harry Greenspun, chief medical officer and managing director at Korn Ferry Health Solutions, told me.

The committee was created by the 21st Century Cures Act to advise the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on implementing policies and standards to create a health IT infrastructure that can boost electronic access, exchange, and use of health data. The new committee replaces the Health Information Technology Policy Committee and the Health Information Technology Standards Committee.

Greenspun said he expects the new committee will get to work on the trusted exchange format as well as the common agreement. Section 4003 of the Cures Act requires the ONC to develop a framework to boost electronic data exchange and also calls for a common agreement that will include details for authenticating health information network participants and policies and procedures governing the exchange of information among health networks.

In addition to the GAO appointments, the Health and Human Services secretary will appoint three members, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate will appoint two additional members apiece, and the speaker of the House and the House minority leader will appoint two additional members apiece. Members will serve three-year terms.

Federal agencies don’t always listen to recommendations from advisory committees, but this particular committee actually has some real power, Bradley Merrill Thompson, a Washington-based attorney with Epstein Becker & Green PC, told me.

For example, the committee is required to submit an annual report to the HHS and Congress on its actions, Thompson said.

“That gives it immense power, because if the committee disagrees with what ONC is doing, presumably they will say so to some very important people,” Thompson said.

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