Don’t get me wrong. I like Dan Blocker. He was my favourite character on the 1960’s TV show Bonanza. Perhaps I have some sort of connection with big, lumbering, generally good-natured hicks who occasionally blow a gasket. Can’t imagine why. I also like beta blockers. They are great for keeping the blood pressure down, and they prevent heart attacks. Even Blue Blockers, the darling of the 1990’s infomercial sunglasses set, have their place, just not on my face.
But information blockers…. that’s another story. In the EMR world, this term refers to I.T. companies that deliberately set out to inhibit the free exchange of information between medical professionals. In New Brunswick, this practice is well illustrated by the egregious Data Sharing Agreement, which prevents me from getting proper access to my patients’ lab data.
If there was ever any doubt that the blocking of free exchange of health information was a bad idea, read on. This is a huge issue in the United States, and the Senate appears to be on the verge of taking drastic action to penalize EMR vendors who seek to prevent information exchange.
From the June 2014 Draft Report from the Committee of Appropirations
United States Senate:
Information Blocking.—The Committee urges ONC [Office of the National Coordinantor for Health Information Technology] to use its certification program judiciously in order to ensure certified electronic health record technology [CEHRT] provides value to eligible hospitals, eligible providers and taxpayers. The Committee believes ONC should use its authority to certify only those products that clearly meet current meaningful use program standards and that do not block health information exchange. ONC should take steps to decertify products that proactively block the sharing of information because those practices frustrate congressional intent, devalue taxpayer investments in CEHRT, and make CEHRT less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use. The Committee requests a detailed report from ONC regarding the extent of the information blocking problem, including an estimate on the number of vendors or eligible hospitals or providers who block information. This detailed report should also include a comprehensive strategy on how to address the information blocking issue.
The Data Sharing Agreement forged between the New Brunswick Medical Society and the Province of New Brunswick is a prime example of information blocking. If the U.S. Senate has it’s way, EMR companies like Velante and Intrahealth – were they to be conducting business in the U.S. – would be decertified.
It has come to this in the United States because things were done wrong in the first place. EMR vendors were permitted to build isolated information silos which precluded the sharing of information. Now they have a terrible mess which is going to be very expensive to fix.
In New Brunswick, the adoption of EMR technology lags behind both the United States and the rest of Canada. Perhaps our Medical Society could learn from the mistakes of the past, and take steps to break down the barriers to information exchange.
The first step would be to abolish the Data Sharing Agreement.
How about it?