In February 2019, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed new regulations to advance interoperability across key sectors of our nation’s health care system and empower patients and their caregivers with easier access to their personal health information. The proposed regulations would implement part of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) of 2016
We, the six people who have served as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology since the ONC was formed in 2004, unanimously believe that these rules have the potential to transform how information flows through our health care system, catalyzing broad innovation and engaging and empowering consumers. We strongly support the proposed proactive measures for the acceleration of information exchange and interoperability, including the promotion of technical standards and the use of hospital conditions of participation. We also applaud the proposed rule’s enforcement mechanisms against the use of pricing to restrict patients’ access to their health information and other types of information blocking.
One of the central elements of the proposed interoperability rules is the expanded use of application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs hold new promise in health care as a powerful and positive disrupter to enable clinical data liquidity and convenient patient access to personal data. These types of advances have already occurred in other major consumer-focused industries where APIs are safely and effectively employed, such as banking, energy, and web-based retail services. The use of APIs would enable easy, prompt and safe access to standardized health information extracted from electronic health records (EHRs), helping providers improve and coordinate care and, most importantly, facilitating easy, free or near-free access for patients to their personal health information. Notably, the rules outline a path for health plans and payers to also participate in the exchange of data via APIs using the same set of standards.