ASCO Outlines Interoperability Recommendations for Congress at Capitol Hill Briefing

September 15, 2015

ASCO has outlined steps Congress should take to advance the widespread interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) and prevent the practice of “information blocking.” The recommendations were outlined in an ASCO position statement released during a Capitol Hill briefing on big data during which the Society also described its vision for CancerLinQ™, a health information technology (HIT) platform that will harness big data analytics to help oncologists deliver high-quality care to patients with cancer.

“The treatment of cancer is complex, often requiring coordination of care and the exchange of detailed clinical information among multiple health care providers using different health information systems,” said ASCO President Julie Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO. “Widespread interoperability for sharing electronic health information is not just a matter of efficiency, but critical for optimal cancer care. It is essential to help patients and physicians navigate the complex continuum from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.”

Electronic health records (EHRs) often contain data that cannot easily be shared among physicians or contributed to quality improvement, public health reporting or analytics. In addition, ASCO is observing a growing trend in commercial business practices that are creating barriers to interoperability, including information blocking—the practice of knowingly and unreasonably interfering with the exchange or use of electronic health information. 

ASCO is calling on Congress to build on efforts currently underway to address the interoperability of electronic health record systems. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, which contained language addressing interoperability.

“The House has taken significant steps toward these recommendations in the 21st Century Cures legislation and we commend the Energy and Commerce Committee for its leadership on this issue,” said Dr. Vose. “We ask that the Senate adopt that language because further delay in this effort will be detrimental to patient care.” 

In addition to supporting the provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, ASCO urges Congress to take the following additional steps:

1. Congress should enact legislation as quickly as possible to ensure widespread interoperability is achieved.  The legislation should include clear direction and mandates on the elimination of unjustified information blocking. 

2.Congress should pass legislation to remove barriers to interoperability, especially information blocking. The legislation should include aggressive deadlines for implementation. 

3.Policymakers should ensure that cancer patients, oncologists and other oncology providers do not bear the costs of achieving interoperable electronic health records and of companies refraining from information blocking. Patients and health care providers should not have to subsidize the cost of ensuring that electronic health records are interoperable.

4.Federal officials should work with ASCO and other stakeholders to ensure that healthcare providers have the information necessary to be prudent purchasers and users of health information technology systems.  Officials should work with ASCO and other stakeholders to help educate health care providers regarding contractual provisions, information blocking and other activities that are counterproductive to the national interest of promoting widespread interoperability. 

Read the full paper position and watch the full briefing.