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ONC Details Plan to Improve Data Standards, Big Data Analytics
May 18, 2016 News

ONC has proposed several pieces of legislation promoting better and more effective data standards for health information exchange, which would help to support the use of healthcare big data analytics to improve patient care.

ccording to a recent blog post published by ONC’s Karen Desalvo and Lisa Lewis, the agency has proposed several pieces of legislation in an effort to keep pace with the quick evolution of healthcare IT. This legislation covers four main categories, primarily centering on health information exchange and interoperability.

First, ONC seeks to eliminate health information blocking, a practice that purportedly  keeps data in only one health network or one technology vendor’s hands. Information blocking seriously hinders patient care, however, because it keeps all necessary providers from seeing a the full scope of patient information, potentially causing them to perform repetitive procedures or even making care decisions based off of limited information.

ONC’s proposed legislation calls for eliminating this practice by making it easier to detect and report information blocking.

“Our legislative proposal would prohibit these information blocking practices, protect persons who report them, and authorize the HHS Office of Inspector General to investigate and impose penalties for this behavior,” DeSalvo and Lewis wrote.

The pair also discussed proposed legislation that would give instructions on how to use healthcare data between disparate technologies. While the ONC has released an interoperability roadmap, DeSalvo and Lewis say it is equally important to make suggestions beyond technical specifications. This legislation would provide guidelines for healthcare organizations’ behavior and how they use healthcare data.

“Individual behavior or a system’s or practice’s business practices sometimes inhibit the seamless and secure electronic exchange of information even when clinicians use a certified health IT product that meets appropriate technical specifications,” the officials explained.

“This proposal will allow us to address the business policies, practices, and behavior of health IT entities, just as we do for technical specifications, to help to ensure that an individual’s health information is readily available when and where it matters most.”

DeSalvo and Lewis stated that much of this legislation is also geared toward how providers interact with one another, specifically in how they share information regarding their health IT.

Some of their proposed legislation calls for increased healthcare technology transparency, and specifically require vendors to disclose their costs, business practices, technology limitations, and other pertinent information which would better inform a potential customer’s decision.

“This legislative proposal would make available more detailed and meaningful information about certified health IT products,” DeSalvo and Lewis said. “It would also create greater transparency about the business practices of developers who license and sell certified health IT, and in turn greater accountability and stronger incentives for them to continually improve the quality and usability of their products and services.”

Lastly, the proposed legislation calls for healthcare professionals to share best practices with one another to help enhance patient experience, and to boost hospital quality and hospital safety.

This part of the propo creates a space for both health IT developers and users to report potential problems, as well as best practices, for others to access. This will in turn boost the quality of health data collected and used, and boost the quality of how providers use that data.

“There is clear evidence that the widespread adoption of health IT has already improved, and offers many opportunities to further enhance, the safety of health care,” the two said. “Still, there is work to do in this young field to establish consensus on best practices and consistent implementation across the spectrum of health care providers, technology developers, researchers, and other relevant entities.”

Overall, this proposed legislation is a part of ONC’s efforts to keep up with the evolution of technology, and to create an environment in which healthcare professionals effectively use healthcare data. By implementing certain laws, including ones about the seamless exchange of health data as well as the exchange of best practices, DeSalvo and Lewis hope to improve the face of the industry on the whole.

“As with all technology, health IT will continue evolving rapidly and we must be able to keep pace with the needs of the ever-changing landscape,” DeSalvo and Lewis concluded. “These legislative proposals are a critical component of our efforts to do so, and to enable truly interoperable health information exchange that benefits all individuals and the health system at large.”

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