New interoperability rules designed to empower patients, Verma says

CMS’ newly proposed interoperability rules are a part of a broader effort to empower patients by ensuring they have access to their medical records, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during the HIMSS conference in Orlando on Fed. 12.

Earlier this week, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed new rules to support electronic health record (EHR) interoperability.

“At the end of the day, everything that we’re doing really focuses on our efforts to empower patients,” Serma said during a press conference Tuesday. “We think that patients need to start being at the center of the healthcare system and we want to make sure that they have all the tools that they need to make the decisions that are going to work best for them.”

Last year, the agency launched two other initiatives—MyHealthEData and Blue Button 2.0—which promoted giving patients electronic access to their health information and allowed patients to share their claims data with researchers.

According to Verma, the newly proposed rules encourage insurance companies that work with CMS to release their claims data. They also focus on information blocking and sanctions for providers that engage in the practice.

“What we did in our rules that we announced (Monday) is essentially propose that all of the insurance companies that do business with CMS—Medicare Advantage plans, Medicaid Advantage care and all the exchange plans—that they follow our lead and they release their claims data, as well,” Verma said. “We think that’s that an important step towards empowering our patients and making sure that they have access to their data.”

Interoperability has become a top focus for CMS because of its potential to make the entire healthcare system more efficient. Through interoperability, providers have access to a patient’s complete record, allowing more sound decisions and better outcomes. For patients, interoperability could increase engagement and improve understanding of their health and care needs.

“When I think about what I call a single shot of interoperability and patient having access to their records, that’s one of the most important things we are doing that’s going to have an impact on the entire system in terms of improving quality of care and lowering costs,” Verma said Tuesday.

“One of the things that we haven’t done in all of our efforts to lower healthcare costs is focus on patients and the end game, so empowering patients and consumers of healthcare and bringing them into the decision-making.”

For the healthcare system as a whole, interoperability could help drive innovation during what her agency calls the “digital data revolution.”

“For the entire healthcare system, this is what we see as the beginning of the digital data revolution,” Verma said. “Now, that we have all this complete data in an era of (AI), imagine what we can do with all that data in terms of research and in terms of developing new cures and treatments.”