Interoperability Rules Delayed. But It's No Time To Relax

Four opinions on what interoperability delay means.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, CMS has moved the timeline of the new interoperability rules out six months. Instead of looking at deadlines at the beginning of 2021, providers and payers have till mid-year 2021. Interoperability has been slow to happen. No one is questioning the need to take COVID-19 into account. But there is some worry about the loss of a sense of urgency; those extra six months could go by in a hurry. Here are a few comments from leaders in the field:  

"Focusing on the most serious public health emergency in a century is the right thing to do and these delays are reasonable. That said, the six month delay still means health plans need to move quickly to prepare for new data sharing requirements. Information exchange can be a meaningful benefit for care in a crisis, particularly as people receive care outside of routine settings and through new modalities, like telehealth. From the health plans we speak with, they acknowledge that the deadlines require immediate attention and will meaningfully impact care as coronavirus remains a concern into 2021."

- John D’Amore, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Diameter Health

"The ONC and CMS rules will be entered into the federal register on May 1, which will start the clock on compliance timelines. CMS will give hospitals a full 12 months from that date to implement ADT notifications, which is relaxed from the original 6 month timeline. ONC has also announced that it will postpone enforcement of its rules. One could argue that we need this sort of interoperability more than ever during a pandemic, so we shouldn’t delay the timelines. The reality is that hospitals are already under increased stress and they can’t address a new compliance burden right now. It makes sense to relax the timeline for providers, but vendors should still plan on developing features on the original timeline. Certainly at Lyniate, we are not going to delay any of our plans as a result of the change."

Drew Ivan, Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Lyniate

"I am fully supportive of a delay in enforcement of the ONC interoperability rules for hospitals and providers who are delivering care, however, I believe enforcement should not be delayed for technology and other healthcare IT companies who have an obligation to make their systems more interoperable. The practical reality, is that delivery systems are dealing with a pandemic and we want them focused on patient care and not on technical upgrades and implementation of new tech less directly related to pandemic response. The other reality is that many hospitals have furloughed technical and administrative staff limiting their ability to plan and implement new technologies. Healthcare technology companies, however, are less impacted and should be required to complete their plans to meet the interoperability standards so that when the public health crisis is under control, hospitals can more quickly get back on track."

Matthew Michela, President and Chief Executive Officer, Life Image

"The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously created a major strain on resources for both payers and providers, so delaying implementation of these new interoperability rules was the most logical choice. However, as we look to the future, healthcare organizations need to keep interoperability projects front of mind. The experience with COVID-19 has taught us a lot and emphasized the need for an interoperability record that helps to provide comprehensive clinical insights with a 360-degree view of a patient. This will help us to better identify those at risk, and determine the best personalized interventions based on their clinical predisposition, genetics, social determinants of health, and other factors."

Emad Rizk, M.D., Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cotiviti