How does the HITECH Act address barriers to information exchange?

  • Commercial barriers. The HITECH Act calls for the “development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of information and that…promotes a more effective marketplace, greater competition...[and] increased consumer choice” among other goals. (PHSA, Section 3001(b)) It does not support arrangements that restrict for business or proprietary purposes the secure, private exchange of information required for patient care. Consumers, patients and their caretakers should not feel locked into a single health system or exchange arrangement because it does not to permit or encourage the sharing of information.
  • Economic barriers. The HITECH Act provides incentives for providers and hospitals for the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). Although the official definition of “Meaningful Use” is still in development, the HITECH Act specifically highlights “information exchange” as one requirement for the incentives.
  • Technical barriers. The HITECH Act focuses on “interoperability,” meaning that policies, programs, and incentives must aim for EHR software and systems that can share information with other EHR software and systems. To support this, HHS will invest in the infrastructure to “support the nationwide electronic exchange and use of health information …including connecting health information exchanges…” HHS works with all partners in the health care and health IT industries to develop the technologies and policies to deliver information securely, privately, and accurately to whomever needs to see it on behalf of the patient’s health.

Content last reviewed on January 15, 2013
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