The Network for Public Health Law is holding their 2012 Public Health Law conference this week in Atlanta, focusing on the Practical Approaches to Critical Challenges in Public Health Law, and I have been in attendance. Having worked in healthcare for over fifteen years, and reflecting upon the topics thus far, it was clear that we all go about our daily lives working hard and doing everything we can to accomplish our projects in Health IT with efficiency, and effectiveness, intent upon delivering value to our customers. But what struck me, was how little we really take time to think about the impact the work we are doing has upon our individual lives and those of our families.
One of the most interesting sessions I attended addressed Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and how HITECH allows for $27B (yes, Billion) in funding incentives for physicians for meaningful use of EHRs--the equivalent of approximately $63,750 per physician--yet no standards have been mandated to require a comprehensive way of sharing EHRs among various clinicians at disparate sites. What good is an EHR if the information cannot be shared with other health organizations as a component of creating a comprehensive care plan for each individual patient?
Both DOD and VA have been battling the issue of data sharing for years. Have we learned nothing from the importance demonstrated through projects such as the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) and the Integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR)? The standardization of terminology proved to be a key factor in validating data quality between the two organizations. The importance and breakthroughs that can and have been made by these two organizations sharing data is astounding. Why are we not applying this model universally?
Data harmonization and interoperability needs to be mandated across all platforms so that individuals maintain a single EHR that can be shared across various disparate providers, creating a more comprehensive approach to care for each individual and the potential for an increased understanding of public health as a whole. What is the purpose of incentivizing physicians to implement the use of EHRs if that data can’t be shared with other providers to improve the overall health of the individual? We have taken an important first step in this process through the creation of the Electronic Health Record, but it is time to start challenging our providers, insurers, legislators and selves to address the next generation of the comprehensive EHR for each individual patient.
-Katie Lutts, 5AM Solutions