Seventeen companies that make an estimated 90% of the electronic health record (EHR) products used by hospitals have pledged to help providers share health information for care whenever permitted by law, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced Feb. 29.

They also pledged to implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance and practices and to help consumers securely access their electronic health information.

The AHA and some of the nation’s largest health care systems joined a number of national hospital, physician and health information organizations in also pledging their support for the interoperability principles.

“Achieving a seamless flow of health information to support care and engage patients will require action from all stakeholders, including vendors, providers and policymakers,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “Hospitals need the technology of their IT systems to communicate effectively, without having to deploy expensive and cumbersome patches and partial solutions.”

In addition to the AHA, other health care groups making the pledge include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the College of Healthcare Informatics Management Executives and the American Health Information Management Association.

Burwell called the commitments a “critical first step” in making patient access to care easier.  She made the announcement at the Health Information Management Systems Society conference in Las Vegas. Click here for more.  


Cybersecurity taskforce. In a separate statement, HHS Feb. 29 said it seeks health care representatives to participate on a new Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force, as called for in the 2015 Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. Nominations for membership should be sent to by 5 p.m. ET on March 9. The task force will hold its first teleconference on March 17. Click here for more.


Hospitals increase information sharing. Meanwhile, an AHA TrendWatch report, released Feb. 29, said hospitals are improving their ability to share information, but external barriers to increased data exchange remain.

Eighty-nine percent of hospitals offered patients the ability to view their medical records online in 2014, up from 43% in 2013, while 57% share clinical data with hospitals outside their system, up from 22% in 2011.

To further advance information sharing, the report calls for the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology to ensure that EHRs can support interoperability in a real-world environment.

Currently, hospitals often must create separate interfaces for each department’s IT system to allow information to flow into the EHR, and more than a quarter of hospitals are required to pay additional costs each time they send or receive health data, the report notes.

“Hospitals are actively promoting the exchange of data, but additional technology and infrastructure solutions are needed to ensure that health IT products are able to readily and easily communicate with one another” the report concludes.

The tables below are from the report.

Interoperability chart A

Interoperability chart B

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