The Pathway to Nationwide Healthcare Interoperability: Updates from Capitol Hill

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill to discuss several pressing issues affecting our nation’s journey toward nationwide health data exchange. My goal was simple: To advocate for patients’ ability to securely and privately participate in their own healthcare through data access, to represent the progress and roadmap for Health Gorilla as an implementer of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), and voice the opportunities and concerns shared by Health Gorilla’s network participants. 

Setting a universal floor for interoperability has long been a goal of our community, and we now see it on the horizon. This is due in large part to the forthcoming launch of Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) under TEFCA. Yet, as we approach this new era, the importance of comprehensive data protection cannot be overstated.

Our team emphasized the effectiveness of regulatory action, and the opportunity afforded by TEFCA as a flexible tool that policy makers can use to address healthcare data challenges. From the 21st Century Cures Act to the Information Blocking Rules, federal interoperability mandates protect patients and foster transparency. By prohibiting healthcare providers from impeding access to health information, they collectively pave the way for a more patient-centric healthcare model.

Throughout these policy discussions, it became evident that while there is broad consensus on the benefits of healthcare interoperability and supporting exchange purposes beyond treatment, the task of balancing data accessibility and privacy is complex. However, through diligent efforts and strategic policies, it is a challenge we can and must overcome.

At Health Gorilla, we are deeply committed to this journey. Our solutions not only facilitate seamless data sharing but also prioritize patient control over their own health information. By putting the patient at the center of their data, we believe we can enhance health equity and foster greater trust in the system. As the regulatory landscape rapidly evolves, Health Gorilla is ready to serve as an onramp for organizations to achieve compliance and participate in federally certified data exchange. 

As we move forward, my ideal outcome is two-fold. First, we need to create a regulatory environment that promotes safe and effective data sharing. This will involve the continued development and implementation of frameworks like TEFCA, alongside complementary regulations that heighten the bar for data security and patient privacy.

Second, we must ensure that interoperability does not inadvertently widen care gaps and increase healthcare inequality. Therefore, we must design systems that are universally accessible and beneficial to all patients, regardless of their technical know-how or socioeconomic standing. 

I am optimistic about the future of healthcare interoperability. The discussions I had on Capitol Hill have reaffirmed my belief that we are on the right path. The problem may be complex, but with collective effort, protective regulations, and unwavering commitment to patient privacy, we can successfully navigate this new frontier.