Should the Interoperability of Health Records be Mandated?


Michael C. Burgess, U.S. representative (R-Texas), introduced a new bill to promote the interoperability of healthcare records. The bill will create the Charter Organization, which will be composed of industry stakeholders to define interoperability standards, and it will reside within the Department of Health and Human Services. Consequently, Meaningful Use payments would be determined based on the use of EHRs that are certified according to the interoperability requirements.

There are a few elements of the proposed bill that need to be clarified. First, the bill will need to define who has access to records, specifically if doctors and patients are both considered 'authorized users.' The bill also does not guarantee that clinicians will be represented in the Charter Organization.

Furthermore, the proposed bill does not specify technical solutions. It is common that the government mandates the behavior of records, but fails to address the technologies that constitute them. To begin, there needs to be a consensus on what information is recorded in the EHR. Next, there must be a defined language for EHR systems, in order for another site receiving the record can understand the information. Lastly, there must be a standardization of the formats and protocols used to exchange the data.

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