CMS, Interoperability, and The Digital Front Door


It’s a big week for Health IT.

HIMSS kicked off its annual conference yesterday in Orlando, gathering thousands of leaders that represent every facet of healthcare and among them, everyone is talking about CMS’ new proposal for advancing interoperability and patient access.

At its core, the proposal outlines two rules that:

  1. Require health plans to give patients immediate access to their health records, free of charge 
  2. Publicly identify doctors, hospitals, and other providers who engage in information blocking 

This feels familiar. 

The proposal places significant responsibility on the shoulders of health plans to grant patients access to their records, but we’ve been here before when meaningful use mandated patient access through the use of patient portals. It was a solid first attempt at equipping patients to leverage their own health information and create better care coordination between providers, but it underestimated the impact of siloed organizations and patients stuck with multiple portals that don’t communicate. Patients were supposed to benefit from a strategy in which they have no voice, so instead they often simply do not participate. 

What’s different? 

This new commitment to interoperability mandates speed and opens the door for tech giants, like Apple, who is beta testing their Health Records App to aggregate patient data. Others will follow suit, which means that one of the biggest differences in this new wave of support for patient access will be choices for patients. Not an Apple user? That’s ok, there will be others offering the same capability in a different way. 

We’re getting closer. 

We’ve been saying it for awhile now, patient portals are important but they aren’t enough. We have to do better in finding ways to both protect patient data and make it accessible to patients. This takes human-centered design and an understanding of how patients use technology in their everyday. Trevor Brown, Vice President of Business Development at Relatient, talked about this very thing in a recent interview with Future Healthcare Today, 

“It’s all about access and ease of operations. We live in such a fast-paced world that we have been conditioned to expect things quickly and easily and that’s what this [the digital front door] is going to allow providers to do,” said Brown. “Down the road, we view this front door as not just access to a practice, but to the entire patient journey.” 

The general feeling is that CMS’ new proposal is a great first step, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We agree. And we’re ready to do our part, because patient-centered engagement will be key to leveraging value-based care, expanding patient access, and ultimately, building healthier populations. 

Ready to do more with your patient portal?