Fed Advisors Say Data Blocking not Hindering Interoperability

Greg Slabodkin | Health Data Management | August 26, 2015

Competition among providers and separately among vendors is not leading to wholesale information blocking and the lack of electronic health record sharing, according to the Health IT Policy Committee’s interoperability task force. The committee, which advises federal officials, bases its conclusion on feedback gathered in two separate virtual hearings held earlier this month with stakeholders.

While many industry observers argue that the main challenges to HIT interoperability are not technical but business-related, the task force found that when it comes to financial barriers to interoperable EHRs a cut-throat competitive business environment is not among the major contributing factors. “We did not hear—even though that was one of our topics—that competition or fear of competition was a big factor in why we didn’t have as much interoperability as we’d hoped,” said Paul Tang, chair of the task force, during Tuesday’s Policy Committee meeting that summarized and discussed themes from the hearings.

However, the task force’s observation flies in the face of an April 2015 report to Congress from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT which highlighted the problem of electronic health information blocking, drawing attention to how both provider and vendor “bad actors” are interfering with data exchange. In its report, ONC argued that some EHR vendors are preventing the exchange of health information with competitors and how some providers engage in information blocking to control referrals and enhance their market dominance over competitors.