Yesterday, the White House released an important report on health information technology. In the report, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) – an advisory group of scientists and engineers appointed by the President – made several recommendations intended to make it easier to exchange health information from one health care system to another. Among the report’s recommendations is an approach that would apply a universal language for exchanging health data and would tag health data with certain information, including patient privacy preferences.
The PCAST report comes while a multi-year government program is underway to encourage health care providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). The program subsidizes providers’ purchase of EHR systems if the provider can demonstrate ‘meaningful use’ of the system. Providers who decline to adopt and make meaningful use of EHR systems face a penalty in the form of decreased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Despite these incentives, however, the PCAST report states that exchange of health data between institutions is hampered by incompatible and proprietary systems, holding back the full potential of health IT to improve patient care and making it more difficult for innovators to create health data applications for patients’ personal use.
Read more »