Government must ease exchange of health information, president's tech report says

The federal government must facilitate the widespread adoption of universal standards that will allow healthcare stakeholders to better share electronic health information and maintain patient privacy, according to a presidential advisory council report released Wednesday morning.

The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should develop guidelines to facilitate the adoption of a universal language for assisting the exchange of electronic health information and the transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report said.

Although leveraging health information technology in the healthcare setting provides numerous benefits, the impact of health IT over the past decade has been “modest,” with nearly 80 percent of physicians lacking basic digital records, PCAST said. Further, EHRs already in existence are limited in function and cannot be easily shared.

The report noted that last year’s stimulus package included as much as $27 billion to promote the adoption and use of EHR technologies. Providers and hospitals can already start registering for a CMS program that will provide incentives for using EHR technology in accordance with the agency's standards.

PCAST called on the federal government to develop within a year a set of metrics to measure progress toward an operational, universal, national health IT infrastructure, and it said federal agencies must coordinate government information systems with public health agencies and government benefit payment systems.