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A Decade after the HITECH Act, CMS’s Verma Reinforces Health Data Interoperability

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It will be almost a decade since the enactment of the milestone HITECH Act in 2009 (via ARRA), which promoted EHR adoption and bolstered HIPAA compliance measures. At the HIMSS 2018 conference, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Seema Verma announced the MyHealthEData initiative, which rejects information blocking and supports a patient-centered medical record. Verma stated “It’s our data, and we should control it.” The Meaningful Use program, and more recently MACRA, financially incentivized providers to increase data exchange, among other EHR goals. Under the new MyHealthEData initiative, Verma indicated MACRA will be streamlined, simplified, and specific to reduce physician burden and prioritize data sharing. Verma stated “…this will empower patients to be true consumers of healthcare which will ultimately drive competition and lower costs.”

Interestingly, there has been little mention of updating HIPAA privacy and security regulations, which is one of the largest industry hurdles when tackling interoperability. Controlling access and keeping data secure are cornerstones of HIPAA. With increased data sharing, what audit mechanisms will track patient medical record access? Traditionally, an accounting for disclosures log could answer these questions, but will they become outdated? With an industry still seeking detailed legal definitions for the medical record and audit trail, greater access to data is bound to create more questions. Understanding the various systems, and how they integrate, will reduce the complexities of healthcare litigation discovery.

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