Highlights from California Health Policy Forum Panel on Provider Information Sharing

The California Health Policy Forum held a briefing last week at the Capitol entitled, “Enabling Information Sharing Among California Health Providers: What’s Next?” involving academics, the Department of Health Care Services and community clinics.

Panelists provided an overview of the federal and state health information technology (health IT) landscape and perspectives on what’s next in health IT and HIE. All affirmed the need for better care coordination and information sharing among providers, despite the costs associated with adoption of health IT and related challenges such as confidentiality requirements or disparate electronic health record (EHR) systems that do not easily “talk” with one another.

During the Q & A, a staff person from Covered California asked what large purchasers like Covered California and CalPERS could do to encourage better information sharing among providers. As an active purchaser exchange, Covered California is dedicated to incentivizing health plan performance in this area, and in ways that should improve quality and care coordination over time. Targeted payment incentives, several panelists suggested, could be used to improve motivation among plans and providers to share clinical information more efficiently.

The Take-Home Message for Health Consumer Advocates

Despite the consensus on the importance of information sharing for care coordination and other critical health care delivery system goals, the practical barriers are real. Meaningful progress to help eliminate the real and perceived barriers to information sharing and adoption of HIE will partly depend on clarification from regulators. To the extent that barriers to information sharing relate to concerns about confidentiality and the purposes for which information is used, consumers should have a voice in future panels on this subject. See resources on the topic here. This and the simple fact that consumers have so much to gain from better information sharing, is why consumer advocates should be a part of such discussions.