ASCO Urges Congress to Address EHR Interoperability and Information Blocking

Sept. 16, 2015
During a Sept. 15 Capitol Hill briefing, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) called on Congress to address problems with big data and interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs), specifically information blocking.

During a Sept. 15 Capitol Hill briefing, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) called on Congress to address problems with big data and interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs), specifically information blocking.

“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,” ASCO President Julie Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO, said during the briefing. “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.”

In a position statement released during the briefing, ASCO urged Congress to quickly pass legislation to ensure widespread interoperability is achieved and to remove barriers to data sharing, including passing mandates on the elimination of what the organization calls “unjustified information blocking.”

ASCO asserted that oncologists have observed “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 further stated, “Although some information-sharing challenges are related to legitimate measures taken to safeguard privacy and security, information-blocking schemes appear to be on the rise.”

In the position statement, the organization gave several examples of these barriers including per transaction fees for data exchange, refusals to build interfaces, proprietary exchange standards and even contractual requirements that give an EHR vendor exclusive license to use a provider’s data.

“These barriers not only impose unreasonable financial and administrative burdens on oncology practices, but also hinder big data efforts to promote rapid learning efforts, like CancerLinQ,” Robin Zon, MD, FACP, FASCO, said in the ASCO position statement, referring to the organization’s health information technology (HIT) data platform to improve care for cancer patients.  “The promise of EHRs will never be realized until we achieve interoperability and are able to share data in a safe and secure way.”

ASCO called on Congress to build on efforts currently underway to address the interoperability of EHR systems. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, in July, which addresses interoperability. ASCO urged the Senate to take action as well.

ASCO also recommended that policymakers ensure that cancer patients, oncologists and other oncology providers do not bear the costs of ensuring interoperable EHRs through excessive fees for data exchange.

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