ONC aims to help docs, patients with information sharing in proposed rule


The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology is looking to adopt standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) in an effort to boost interoperability of health data.


The Department of Health & Human Services office posted a proposed rule Feb. 11, 2019, that would, according to an agency press release, “help allow individuals to securely and easily access structured and unstructured EHI [electronic health information] formats using smartphones and other mobile devices.”

“We think our rule is going to help reduce burden and improve care,” Michael Lipinski, director of the Regulatory Affairs Division in the ONC Office of Policy, said in an interview. “It is going to do that through technology. With the APIs, you should be able to get to your information easier and have it readily available. Whether that is from another health care provider or using other health care products through the API to improve care, you will have that ability between the certified API and the information blocking policies to use third party developers and their products.”

The proposed rule also included a requirement that EHRs certified by ONC be able to easily export information contained within the EHR and make the format used to extract and export the data contained within the EHR publicly available.

“Another third party developer can build to that and offer competing services to pull that information out,” Mr. Lipinski said. “That would obviously help if you were choosing to switch [EHRs] if you didn’t like the features you were getting from your EHR. ... That functionality should help if you want to do that.”

The standardizing of APIs to help the delivery of data will go hand in hand with information blocking aspects of the proposed rule, which defines the few exceptions where an activity would not be considered information blocking, such as when engaging in practices will prevent patient harm; engaging in consistent, nondiscriminatory practices to protect patient privacy; and implementing practices to promote the security of health information.

Mr. Lipinski said these changes will help prevent providers from hiding behind HIPAA rules as the excuse to not share patient information, which will help with care coordination. “From a provider’s perspective, this should help them get more access to information, more access in a structured way and then easily get and share that information.”

Ultimately, Mr. Lipinski said, the goal is “to increase competition and lower cost while still improving the quality of care for patients.”

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