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Why Interoperability is Vital to Patient Access to Health Data

A new partnership between NATE and MediPortal represents an industry-wide need for interoperability to support patient access to health data.

- The National Association for Trusted Exchange has added another new member in MediPortal, helping to drive patient-centered care and patient access to health data through interoperability.

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According to a press release, the two organizations have teamed up to help patients exchange the health data they aggregate in MediPortal, a personal health record that is not tethered to an EHR, with their physicians.

This helps patients maintain ownership of their own healthcare because they are able to manage and access their own health data. Likewise, it helps boost quality of care because, through interoperable technology, providers are still able to access that information and make care decisions.

According to NATE’s CEO Aaron Seib, this agreement represents one of the organization’s main philosophies that patients are at the center of care, and therefore should have ready access to their health data.

"The consumer is the only person who is present during all of their encounters with the professional healthcare system and often the most important observations are made by the patient and their family members," Seib said in the press release.

"We are very excited to welcome MediPortal as a NATE member. They will be a valuable collaborator on patient-centered technology solutions and will help to fuel the growth in deployment of forward-thinking consumer strategies."

Such a partnership raises a symbiotic relationship in healthcare: patient engagement strategies rely on robust interoperability because patients value access to their health data.

Below, PatientEngagementHIT.com discusses the importance of interoperability in supporting patient engagement and patient access to health data:

Patients are at the center of all care encounters

Seib has expressed the above mentioned sentiments prior to the partnership between NATE and MediPortal.

At the 13th Annual World Health Care Conference, he explained that since patients are the only ones present at each care encounter, they are the foremost party who needs complete access to health data.

“Ultimately, the consumer is the only person who is a part of every encounter that they have,” Seib said. “And if they are going to have 100% information awareness to share with their next provider and to participate and actually partner with all their caregivers, not just the ones that are in the HIEs, not just the ones that are using a particular EMR, but every provider that they’re going to get care from, we have to enable them to get data in the app of their choice.”

Healthcare professionals working with EHR-tethered portals also feel the same way. Patients need access to their health records, and need their providers to have access, too, because they are ultimately the ones coordinating all of their care.

According to Deborah Burgett, RN, MSHA, director of the Office of Clinical Transformation at VCU Health, patient access to health data is as simple as knowing that is going on with one’s own health.

“There are so many uses if we continue to open up the transparency of the record,” Burgett said. “Who better to have the data? The patients need to have the data, the families need to have the data, so that they can see what’s going on with their sick loved one or themselves.”

How is the industry making progress?

These concepts are not lost on healthcare industry professionals. Several organizations are working to provide better health data interoperability to support patient-centered healthcare.

Between sparking conversation the way Seib and colleagues did at the World Health Care Conference and creating innovative approaches to ensure patients can coordinate care using technology, the industry is working to boost patient access to health data.

Notably, industry experts have been advocating better patient-centered strategies under the impending Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. In many comments letters, healthcare leaders have told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that the law should support better patient access to health data so that patients can hold a bigger stake in their care.

At the forefront of this have been the National Partnership for Women and Families and their partner organization, the Consumer Partnership for eHealth (CPeH).

In a letter to Karen DeSalvo, the National Coordinator for Health IT, CPeH said healthcare policies should always ensure that data exchange between patients and providers must always be open.

In MACRA’s case, ONC and CMS must regularly assess how providers exchange data with patients, because such exchange is vital to patient engagement.

“Just looking at interoperability among certified electronic health record (EHR) systems and meaningful EHR users does not capture the spectrum of core populations and uses under MACRA,” the CPeH wrote. “Patient and family caregivers, too, are key exchange partners when receiving, using and contributing new information that helps provide a complete picture of their health.”

It appears as though the industry is moving forward in health IT as well as with patient-centered care. As such, it is likely that healthcare professionals and patient advocates will continue efforts in patient engagement through all means, including through health data interoperability. When technology enables data exchange between patients and providers, the logic goes, patients are able to more fully engage with and coordinate their care.

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