There are signs that partisanship in Washington may be waning.
Interoperability, the need to share medical information from disparate electronic health record systems, is uniting at least two Senators from either side of the party divide. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee calls efforts to exchange health information “a glaring failure.” He goes on to say, “It’s a great idea; it holds great promise. But it’s not working the way it’s supposed to. The current standards for Meaningful Use aren’t clear. Upgrades are expensive. The systems don’t work to share the data; we hear it’s expensive to share the data because of some of the relationships between vendors and doctors.”
Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts expresses anxiety about mismatching patient information even if EHRs become more interoperable. She cites a RAND Corporation study that estimates hospitals mismatch patient information about 8% of the time even with data management software and personnel dedicated to solving the problem.
Frankly, neither critique is particularly helpful. Everybody knows we are in the midst of a health data explosion. Information that could theoretically be stored in 10 billion four-drawer cabinets only three years ago will require 500 billion four-drawer cabinets in just five years. Would either Senator or anybody else suggest that all of this data doesn’t need to be shared?