WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 22, 2022)—The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and a coalition of long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) and health information technology (HIT) groups have submitted comments to an important congressional task force exploring ways to accelerate innovation in the health care system.

In response to a Request for Information (RFI) from the U.S. House Republican “Healthy Futures” Task Force Subcommittee on Modernization, NAHC and colleagues focused on policies that can support LTPAC providers’ adoption of critical interoperable HIT)and standards. Despite widespread recognition that an interoperable health data environment that seamlessly connects all providers is a vital component of a modern and person-centered health system, major gaps exist in the LTPAC community’s ability to invest in, support and scale the kind of infrastructure that would make this kind of system a reality.

There are several reasons why the rate of adoption and use of interoperable HIT and electronic health record (EHR) systems among LTPAC providers lags far behind other sectors of the health care system. Perhaps most impactful however, is the fact that LTPAC, including home health and hospice agencies, did not receive any of the massive federal funding sums from 2009’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, a law that poured billions of dollars into the acute care space to bolster hospital and physician EHR adoption and data-sharing protocols. This funding imbalance has created an uneven playing field, despite LTPAC’s crucial value to patients and families, and an increasing need for provider data systems to “talk” to one another to deliver on the promise of a truly coordinated care experience. The need for interoperability across the care continuum has only accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted how important timely data sharing is for clinical decision support, patient care, patient safety monitoring, and public health reporting.

In light of these structural barriers, the group’s RFI response asks Congress for legislatively appropriated funding to ensure nationwide HIT interoperability and data exchange and sharing across the care continuum. Specifically, Congress should direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish a financial incentives program for LTPAC providers making the transition to interoperable EHRs and technology, as well as direct funding to HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to ensure proper bidirectional interoperability between acute care (e.g., hospitals and physicians), LTPAC providers and other ancillary providers (e.g., therapy, pharmacy, etc.). Resources would support the implementation, use, and sustainability of interoperable EHRs, infection and electronic clinical surveillance technology (ECST), and data-sharing standards and protocols for LTPAC that would govern the flow of information across provider settings.

NAHC and its partners in the LTPAC space will continue to advocate with Congress and HHS for more and better support to build out the interoperability infrastructure needed to best serve patients and families cared for by home-based providers of all types.