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A healthcare ecosystem that can freely share digital data between providers, patients, and payers has no room for technology relics such as fax machines, according to federal health officials.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma drew applause Monday at the Interoperability Forum hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) when she said the two federal agencies have an ambitious goal for eliminating fax machines in provider offices.
"If I could challenge developers on a mission, it's to help make doctors' offices a fax free zone by 2020," Verma said, as Healthcare IT News reports.
To accomplish its goal of making all shared patient information digital, CMS is seeking developers to build consumer-friendly applications that Medicare beneficiaries can use to link their claims data to trusted apps, services, and research programs. Roughly 600 developers have signed on, CMS said.
Despite the ubiquity of electronic health records (EHR) systems, fax machines have remained a stubborn analog presence in healthcare, in large part because too many provider EHRs struggle to share data with other EHRs.
There also are competitive disincentives to digital interoperability among healthcare professionals: Giving another provider your patient’s electronic information increases the chances that the patient may switch providers. Thus fax machines provide an effective way to preserve a “walled garden” in which patient records remain within one health system.
Further, fax machines are explicitly acceptable under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which laid out federal regulations governing patient privacy and how health records can be shared.
CMS will kick off its first Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference on August 13. The federal agency created the Blue Button API, which includes data for 53 million beneficiaries in Medicare Parts A, B and D and can be used by developers to build apps for Medicare patients.