What specific HHS policy changes would significantly increase standards based electronic exchange of laboratory results?This has been an interesting challenge for interoperability, since labs aren't given any incentive dollars to use standards under the Meaningful Use regulation. In my naive world view (which includes the technical, rather than political issues), I think there's a pretty straight-forward solution.
Currently, laboratories covered under CLIA do not receive incentives for using standards specified under meaningful use. One of the requirements of clinical laboratories under CLIA is the production of a test report that meets requirements under 42 CFR 493, subsection 1291.
One possible way to promote use of the standards would be to providing a deeming clause in subsection 1291 such that if transmission of test results is performed with Health Information technology that has been certified to conform to the criteria in 45 CFR 170, subsection 314(b)(6) (see below for text) could be an incentive for laboratories to use those standards. A similar approach was used in the Stark Relaxation rule with respect to interoperable Health IT a few years back. In that regulation, an EHR that had been certified was deemed to be interoperable.
My suggested addition to 42 CFR 493.1291(d) would be:
(d) Electronic Health Technology that has been certified as conforming to 45 CFR 170.314(b)(6) and is connected to a receiving system that is electronic health technology certified as conforming to 45 CFR 170.314(b)(5) is deemed to be an adequate electronic system to ensure test results and patient specific data are accurately and reliably sent from the laboratory to the receiving system.
That deeming clause could greatly simplify for CLIA covered laboratories what they need to do to ensure that test reports are accurately and reliably sent to receiving systems. It wouldn't eliminate their need to certify interfaces for those providers who aren't using certified EHR's, but it would make it easier for them to deal with providers who are using certified technology, and could greatly reduce the interfacing and certification costs they bear in order to comply with the CLIA regulations. That might just be the incentive that they need.