Week 9: Policy Governing Access to Data in an Electronic and Genomic Age.

This week’s blog topic comes on the heels of me listening to the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions full committee hearing on America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records Into Better Care (www.help.senate.gov, 2015). The hearing proceedings had testimony from individual from organizations that use, design and develop electronic health records (EHR), with one of them giving her testimony not just as a health informatics educator but as a parent of a child who could have benefitted from better access to data.

An article by Schilling (2011) describes how the federal government budgeted and made available $27 billion in 2009, as part of an incentive program that would encourage hospitals and healthcare providers to begin to use EHR systems as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The article further acknowledges that it is not cheap to implement an EHR but this is a concern, the main concern is loss of revenue during the time spent implementing the EHR. The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) was at the senate hearing mention above as a witness and discussed the challenges of implementing an EHR in his practice and the fact that his patient volume has never been at the same level, lower volume, as prior to using the EHR.

The most striking piece of the discussion and testimony given by the witnesses was the fact that EHR systems are supposed to share patient data and information but this is unfortunately not the case. It was suggested that one cause might be due to competition amongst healthcare facilities for patients and thus an unwillingness to share data that may already have been gathered just that week by a competing facility. The truth is that the technology is there and has been built to facilitate the sharing of information but it is not being used as fully intended. There is the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 which gives guidance on the sharing of protected patient information electronically and individually which also has facilitated the use of EHR systems.

The conclusion of the hearing was that EHR systems are being used inefficiently thus far and a request that the exchange of health information should be more accessible as the technology is already in place to do so and though there is policy that currently supports the practice, members of congress should continue to develop policy to support the exchange of healthcare information.

References

Schilling, B. (2011). The Federal Government Has Put Billions into Promoting Electronic Health Record Use: How Is It Going? Retrieved from http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/newsletters/quality-matters/2011/june-july-2011/in-focus

United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (2015). Full Committee Hearing – America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records Into Better Care. Retrieved from http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=61101b45-5056-a032-5218-102ca4deb5e2

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2 thoughts on “Week 9: Policy Governing Access to Data in an Electronic and Genomic Age.

  1. I found your discussion this week very interesting, as I did not realize the strong legislative support for the sharing among EHRs. There are numerous instances in which patient care is impacted by the inability for the PCP to view health records from a specialist, hospital visit, referral, or previous PCP, especially among patients who are poor historians. It is encouraging to hear congress is working towards a new policy that will support this practice, as I am sure it will contribute to improving patient care and outcomes.

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  2. I would have to agree with conclusion of the hearing stating that EHR is not utilized to the full extent possible and that doing so could lead to better outcomes and patient satisfaction. However, how do we as healthcare providers and systems improve access to information – meaning making it easier to obtain – while all along maintaining a high level of security, privacy, and confidentiality of patient’s records? This is such a difficult gap to bridge. I have to acknowledge that I lack any sufficient level of understanding in regards to cloud-based storage and security practices. I have passwords on every computer, account, phone, device, etc., and I still feel very unprotected. A person with knowledge, talent, and understanding of how data storge and access is maintained, would also be the very same person who may have a gift for breaching these systems as well.

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