Burwell announces widespread support for HIT commitments

Delivering the opening keynote address at the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced that a group of major healthcare players—including companies that collectively provide 90 percent of EHRs used by hospitals nationwide, as well as the top five largest private healthcare systems in the country—have agreed to implement three core commitments: consumer access, no information blocking and standards.

The first commitment aims to help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community.

The pledge against information blocking will help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing).

Committing to standards means the organizations will implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance and practices for electronic health information and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security.

The health IT developers involved in this pledge include athenahealth, Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, McKesson and Surescripts.

The providers who have signed on operate in 46 states, including Ascension Health, Geisinger Health System, Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente.

In addition, numerous professional associations have signed on, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, AHIMA and CHIME.

“Patients and physicians are in this effort together because patients need easy access to their electronic health information, confident that it is secure and can be shared to benefit their health, and physicians need these electronic records to be interoperable to ensure that patients are receiving the best care possible, said AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, in a release. “Yet, physicians have trouble finding products that can help them achieve this. With so many vendors signing this pledge as well, we look forward to a marketplace where the promise of electronic health records is finally fulfilled.”

Debra L. Ness, president of The National Partnership for Women & Families, another organization to commit to the three core pledges, also released a statement. “It is a welcome sign of our nation’s shift toward a more patient- and family-centered health care system that 49 public and private health care stakeholders have committed to helping consumers easily and securely access and use their electronic health information.

“We know that patients and family caregivers must be able to access and use their digital health information in meaningful ways to actively engage in their health and care, and that authentic patient and family engagement is paramount in transforming our healthcare system into one that delivers better care and better outcomes at lower cost. The promise of consumer access to and use of electronic health information cannot be realized without commitments from across the healthcare spectrum, and we are especially pleased to see that 17 health information technology vendors, 16 healthcare systems and 16 professional groups pledged their support. We look forward to continued collaboration with our public and private partners to ensure that the vision behind these commitments translates into action that benefits all patients and families.”