The Affordable Care Act held back the Interoperability of Healthcare

Why the Affordable Care Act was holding back the Big Data Evolution

The United States government shelled out billions of dollars to develop Obamacare - Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many have seen some improvements in their personal healthcare plans, a real problem developed. The ACA failed to create an environment that was fertile for Big Data. 

To harness the power of analytical healthcare data we need to be able to capture the data. Unfortunately, the ACA brought about a situation where healthcare institutions were encouraged to act independently in developing the framework for healthcare data. With each healthcare institution building unique systems, the results produced a United States healthcare database that could NOT communicate with each other.

It's hard to believe that a country that could create Facebook and Google has yet to get healthcare institutions to be Interoperable.

The general public is entirely uneducated in the pressing need for interoperability within healthcare organizations. Last year, we put out an article on 'How Interoperable technology is going to make you healthier.' In the blog, we spoke about the health solutions founded on analyzing the Big Data of our healthcare institutions. Cures for diseases and vital insights sit untapped because of the disparate systems of our healthcare institutions.

creating a United States interoperable healthcare system

Our team has spent the better part of a decade developing a solution that can grab the Big Data, regardless of the native system that the healthcare organization is using. What this means is that we can finally begin to utilize the healthcare data of the United States. In the article, Health IT is solving the world's behavioral health problems, we site just how big an impact the interoperability of data is to the world's #1 health problem. 

The new administration has the power to enable the policies needed to bring about healthcare data Interoperability.

Recently regarding health technology (HIT) and interoperability, Rep. Tom Price, MD, the Georgia Republican tapped by President Donald Trump to be the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, had the following to say during his confirmation hearings:

"Electronic health records are so important because from an innovation standpoint they allow the patient to have their health history with them at all times and be able to allow whatever physician or provider to have access to that....We in the federal government have a role in that, but that role ought to be interoperability: to make sure the different systems can talk to each other, so it inures to the benefit of the patient.”

Concerning the problematic EHR Incentive Program Price said, "I've had more than one physician tell me that the final rules and regulations related to meaningful use were the final straw for them....And they quit… And when that happens we lose incredible intellectual capital in our society."

"I think what's absolutely imperative is to find out what things ought to be determined and checked, the metrics that are used – that they actually correlate with the quality of care…as opposed to…wasting their time documenting these things that sit in some matrix somewhere but doesn't result in a higher quality of care or outcomes for that patient," said Price.

Dr. Price points to the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted last month, as a significant step toward addressing the healthcare industry’s HIT interoperability challenges. The Cures Act supports interoperability through several provisions, including the prohibition of information blocking and authorization of penalties of as much as $1 million per violation. 

Also, the law codifies new authority for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The law addresses interoperability through additional conditions of certification for HIT developers related to: 

  • Access
  • Use
  • Exchange of Electronic Information
  • Usability
  • Security
  • Business Practices
  • Real-World Testing
  • Publishing Application Programming Interfaces

Representative Dr. Tom Price can have a significant impact on interoperability of HIT through his enforcement and application of its provisions.

Farzad Mostashari, MD, the former head of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT at the Department of Health and Human Services, also recently said regarding the issue of interoperability: "Even though EHRs have proliferated, we have yet to achieve the interoperability, usability, and full utility of them."

He goes on to say: “However, to fulfill the promise of value-based care, to get data flowing, and to make interoperability a reality, we will need a true partnership between all of those working in healthcare and health IT. We need developers to talk with doctors, doctors talking to regulators, and regulators listening and responding to them all. If we do that, I have no doubt that in HIMSS conferences to come, we will celebrate a smarter health care system powered by technology and, thus, delivering better care for less money.”

I think these are good suggestions by Dr. Price and Dr. Mostashari, but at the same time limited…they are right about the need for interoperable data flow to make value-based care work. What we need to focus on also, is that affordable, interoperable technology (HIT) already exists to provide this data flow. 

We need to introduce the Interoperable technology today because the availability exists NOW! 

Put physicians and patients in charge WITHOUT the need to rely on vendors and government!! 

Our suggestion to both Dr. Price and Dr. Mostashari is that a new competitive system must be introduced to the healthcare market immediately AND take the issue out of the hands of vendors and government and put it into the hands of consumers, physicians, and patients - where it belongs. These two initiatives should be the primary emphasis of the new Trump Administration and especially Rep. Price as he prepares for the reform of ACA and the enforcement of the 21st Century Cures Act: Less government and more free market competition where the latest and best interoperable technology has an opportunity to provide these market solutions. 

Earle Rugg
Rural Health IT Corporation


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