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Senate staffers consider HIE solutions


Lawmakers are aware of your difficulties with electronically exchanging health information. U.S. Senate staff members grilled leaders from the health information technology (HIT) and medical fields during a briefing last week about information exchange and how to connect office-based physicians, according to one of the invited guests who spoke with Medical Economics eConsult.

With the Senate in recess last week, only their staff members attended the HIT briefing. The eHealth Initiative hosted the event and invited speakers Jim Murray, vice president of information technology for CVS Caremark; Allison Viola, senior director of federal relations at the American Health Information Management Association; Will Underwood, senior associate at the Center For Practice Improvement and Innovation of the American College of Physicians; and Phillip S. Present II, chief operating officer of MedPlus, a Quest Diagnostics company.

“There was a lot of focus on interoperability,” Present tells eConsult. “[Electronic health records (EHRs)] are important and critical to implement, but we’re not going to receive the full benefits of them in the United States unless we have a comprehensive methodology of sharing data amongst the different stakeholders.”

One of the stage 2 EHR meaningful use proposed requirements is that doctors electronically provide a care summary record to another physician or hospital for 10% of their referred patients. Doctors without access to a community health information exchange (HIE) or Web-based solution would be challenged by the requirement.

Capturing and aggregating information from several sources, including hospitals and health insurers, also was discussed during the hour-long event attended by approximately 60 senior staff members, Present says.

“That is particularly important for the small primary care offices [that] are the care coordinators for patients [who] have chronic conditions,” Present says. “You need somebody quarterbacking their care, and you can’t do that effectively unless you have access to information from all these different sources.”

One of the solutions discussed during the event was a public-private partnership that would include financial incentives and penalties to encourage hospitals to share information with community practices and each other, Present says.

“If everybody expects hospitals to cooperate and share data without some rigorous encouragement from government, I think we’re kidding ourselves,” he says. “The consensus was, there is a lot of work to be done on a short-term basis to promote better collaboration and cooperation in terms of how data exchange needs to work in this country.”

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