The Balance Challenge for Policy in Progressing the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI)

By John Travis and members of the EHRA Information Blocking Task Force

 

With publication of the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking , and ONC’s Certified Health IT program final rule (Cures Act Final Rule), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) worked to implement important provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) for nationwide interoperability. The initial proposal from ONC addressing the Trusted Exchange Framework and Cooperative Agreement (TEFCA), which was also required by the Cures Act, created a central role for the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) in federal health IT policy, and it is important to consider what that role will be in the national policy framework. Will the USCDI push the industry beyond where it would go on its own by being progressive in its version expansion? Will it affirm and codify an extension of the current state, adhering to a principle of expansion based on supporting pre-requisites of already established interoperability standards? Or something in between?

In recent deliberations of the USCDI Task Force of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC), the Federal Advisory Committee established under the Cures Act, this tension point has come to light. The members of the task force seem to have two perspectives on the matter. 

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Five Ways EHRs Are Helping CDC Track COVID-19 Vaccinations

By the EHR Association COVID-19 Task Force

In December, two COVID-19 vaccines received authorization from the FDA, and the federal government began distribution to the states almost immediately. Millions of Americans have already received their first dose – many their second – and millions more will be vaccinated in the coming weeks and months. While social distancing, frequent hand washing, and face masks remain vital tools in limiting spread of coronavirus, we can increasingly see our way to a full return to hugs and handshakes, in-person meetings, travel, pubs and parties, concerts and classrooms.

As we anxiously await a return to our old way of life, public health experts, policymakers, and the public are watching the CDC vaccine data tracker, updated every evening with the latest numbers, including: 

  • How many vaccine doses have been distributed to-date? 
  • How many vaccines have been administered?
  • How many people have received their first dose? 
  • How many people have gotten a second dose?
  • Which vaccine is being administered?

But how does the CDC get all that data? The answer varies, but it’s made possible by technology, and electronic health records (EHRs) have been a key player from the beginning. 

Here are five ways that EHRs and the EHR Association are playing important roles in vaccine administration and data collection in the United States.

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Securing API-based Access to Patient Data

By EHRA Standards & Interoperability Workgroup

One of the goals of the 21st Century Cures Act’s health IT provisions was to enable patients to have secure access to their electronic health information using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) advanced that objective when it published its May 2020 Final Rule, which specifies HL7(R) FHIR(R)-based standards that health IT developers (as well as provider organizations developing their own solutions) will be expected to implement so that patient can access their health data using apps of their choice, connected to APIs. But how can patients be assured that their health information is secure once it leaves the EHR? 

Health data are among an individual’s most sensitive information, obligating all members of the healthcare community to protect patient privacy by ensuring secure data exchange. This blog post will review how the ONC standards for patient access can enable best practices to securely share patient health data.

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EHRA and Public Health: Two-Way Communication in the Age of COVID-19

How EHRA’s COVID-19 Task Force is Supporting Providers and Public Health Agencies During the Pandemic

By Hans Buitendijk and David Bucciferro
EHR Association Chair and Vice Chair

Every organization in healthcare and public health has been prioritizing COVID-19 response, and the EHR Association is no exception. Our COVID-19 Task Force, created in the spring, continues to demonstrate its value to EHRA members and our provider and public health partners. From data collection to preparing for vaccines, EHRs play an important role in America’s response to the pandemic.  

In a recent interview for HIMSS TV, we explained that by creating a task force, we’re able to bring in a broad spectrum of individuals and knowledge from EHRA member companies – people who may not ordinarily actively participate in the Association, but who have specific interest and expertise in a topic. For instance, we stood up an Opioid Crisis Task Force in 2018 that is still active.  

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Cyberattacks Increase in the Time of COVID-19

By Justin Armstrong, Chair, and Nam Nguyen, Vice Chair
EHRA Privacy & Security Workgroup

For COVID-19 resources for health IT developers and other stakeholders, click here.

As part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, EHRA is highlighting three alarming trends in cyberattacks that have arisen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that health organizations should pay special attention to:

  1. Increases in COVID-19 themed cyberattacks
  2. Increased risk of exploitation with more employees working from home
  3. Increase in targeting of COVID-19 research and vaccine development
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Health IT and Public Health: Past, Present, Future

For COVID-19 resources for health IT developers and other stakeholders, click here.

By Kedar Ganta, Co-Chair, EHRA Standards & Interoperability Workgroup

For centuries, public health has been a story of the quest to find effective means of preventing diseases, containing outbreaks and analyzing health trends in the population. 

The “old” public health ecosystem focused on the environment, while the “new” public health focus is on the individual within a given population. Shifting the focus from finding sources of epidemic and endemic infectious diseases in our surroundings to finding them in the individual necessitated an evolution from trial and error to scientific inquiry that revolves around defining diseases, measuring their frequency and seeking effective interventions.

During the 20th century, science and technology reshaped our shared understanding of diseases and helped restructure public health and medicine. This “new” era will be guided by the rapidly growing availability of health data to detect, observe and understand health patterns at a population level using advanced computing and analytics.

Electronic health records (EHRs) continue to play an important role in influencing and improving population health outcomes by efficiently collecting standardized individual data that can be shared among different healthcare organizations and public health agencies.

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