New ONC Guidance on HIPAA and Interoperability will be issued this fall according to National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. Karen DeSalvo.
One of the main aims of the new guidance is to clarify the rights individuals have to access their medical histories, and when this information must be released to patients by healthcare providers. There is still some confusion over when PHI can be disclosed to patients, with some healthcare providers hiding behind HIPAA and claiming the sharing of PHI is not permitted.
The guidance will help patients learn about their rights, while giving instruction to HIPAA covered entities about the disclosure of PHI under the HIPAA Privacy Rule; when it is permitted; when data sharing is not, and the penalties for not complying with HIPAA Rules.
The new ONC guidance on HIPAA and interoperability will also help to measure interoperability of hospital IT systems, and help healthcare providers lay the foundations on which a fully interoperable health data system can be built. The new measurement framework will be included in the final interoperability roadmap that has been scheduled to be released in the fall.
There was seen to be a dire need for guidance to be issued, with stakeholders and the ONC frustrated by the lack of progress made toward meaningful and useful data exchange.
The ONC guidance on HIPAA and interoperability comes at an appropriate time, with data exchange increasing among healthcare providers, and hospitals in particular. However, there are a number of barriers that are holding back healthcare data exchange, with technical issues being the main problem area, according to American Hospital Association research.
Last year, its survey indicated that as many as a quarter of hospitals have not yet been able to implement systems that allow health data to be sent, received or used in an electronic form. The figures show EHR systems to be the main problem, which prevent data being received according to 58% of the healthcare providers surveyed, while 59% said that their exchange partners lacked the technology to receive data electronically.
There are also financial and administrative problems to overcome. 30% of hospitals said complex workflow challenges were major operational problems, with 25% claiming the cost of exchanging healthcare information with external providers to be holding them back. Worryingly, a quarter of respondents said that the information they had received was not particularly useful.
While there are problems, over three quarters (75.5%) of healthcare providers surveyed said they did have a basic EHR in place. The previous year the figures stood at 59.4%. Certified EHR technology is now in operation at 96.9% of healthcare providers. Getting those EHRs working as they should appears to be taking some time.