WASHINGTON — After nearly a year of debate, major health care stakeholders said Wednesday they have agreed to push for the easier exchange of electronic health care records among providers and make other policy changes aimed at reducing costs and improving care under the Affordable Care Act.
The Healthcare Leadership Council said legislation should be passed to set a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline to achieve national interoperability, or exchange, of electronic health records and to update what industry members see as outdated regulations that are slowing moves toward value-based care.
The council, a policy group that aims to promote dialogue among providers, insurers and patient advocacy groups, hosted industry leaders and federal officials at a summit last year to find a consensus on reforms in the post-Obamacare health system. On Wednesday, the group unveiled its findings on Capitol Hill.
By developing concrete proposals, the health care industry can lead in improving health outcomes and costs, said Susan DeVore, president and CEO of Premier Healthcare Alliance, which advises on provider performance.
“This is not a 10 year road map,” DeVore said. “We have to get there faster.”
Dr. Andy Baskin, national medical director for clinical quality at Aetna, Inc., said that many of the goals of the Affordable Care Act — specifically coordinated care — cannot be done without shareable electronic health record systems.
Electronic health records allow your personal health history, including medical results and prescriptions, to be accessed by the variety of providers that a patient interacts with – from the doctor to the pharmacist.
“If you think your doctor’s health record has all your information, you are mistaken,” Baskin said. “The private industry needs to come together on a common standard…the technology is there, the consensus needs to be.”
The 2018 deadline was set to match the timeline established by the 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which offered incentives for doctors and other providers to use electronic health record systems – that is, to share records online.
However, the leadership council’s report said innovation in health information technology cannot be driven solely by the government. The private sector must take the lead in establishing common standards for interoperable systems, the council said. The government’s role should be limited to regulating the blocking of information – situations where a provider withholds health records or makes them difficult to access.
Progress is being made. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 80 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals were able to access health records from at least one external source as of 2014, though only 48 percent routinely did so.
Access to health records remains a patchwork, Baskin said, with no guarantee that personal health records from one provider will reach another.
Other Healthcare Leadership Council recommendations include changes to speed up drug and device approvals by the Food and Drug Administration. The industry wants “safe harbor” exceptions that allow device manufacturers and pharmaceuticals to contract directly with providers, something which they say is challenging under existing anti-kickback laws.
The council has already begun presenting its policies to members of Congress, according to a statement by the group.