Craig Richardville, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Carolinas HealthCare System and chair of Premier’s Member Technology Improvement Committee (MTIC), testified today before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, calling on Congress to create a policy pathway to enable easy exchange of health information in timely and cost-effective ways.
Richardville underscored that cost-effective, efficient, and easy to use health information is foundational to advancing and providing excellent care in this country. He described how, through focused efforts, Carolinas HealthCare System is successfully using technology to improve patient care as part of its matching biometric program, but that achieving the data integration necessary for the program has been extremely resource-intensive and expensive. Nationwide, patients and care providers are missing opportunities to improve people’s health and welfare when information about care or health status is not easily available, he said.
The hearing, entitled “Improving Health Care Quality: An Integral Step Toward Health Reform,” is the first in a series of hearings intended to address interoperability and data blocking with the goal toward evaluating the need for legislation. Joining Richardson in testifying today were witnesses from the American Medical Informatics Association, the National Partnership for Women & Families and Cerner Corporation.
In providing key points for the committee to consider in correcting the problem, Richardville recommended that Congress and the administration promote policy principles that further open HIT infrastructures, including:
- Private-public partnerships on HIT interoperability governance;
- Functional data and transport standards that promote interoperability and innovation;
- Public interoperability and cost efficiency measures of interoperability; and
- Data transparency.
Many committee members recognized the importance of taking action to stop data blocking during the hearing, including Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who spoke about how the lack of interoperability defeats the very purpose of data sharing. He queried whether Congress should act to delay meaningful use stage 3, even just parts of it, and whether coercion by government – either the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology or Congress – was needed to drive interoperability among HIT industry vendors. Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) agreed with many of Chairman Alexander’s concerns, noting that the federal government has invested $30 billion in HIT and still interoperability hurdles exist.