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Despite fate of Obamacare, you still need to exchange health records

Buff Colchagoff, Chief Executive Officer, RosettaHealth
Written by: Buff Colchagoff

Although the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) didn’t garner enough votes in the House, there is still uncertainty about the future of this legislation. Despite this lack of clarity, the reality is that today’s health organizations will continue to need to share electronic health records, with or without the ACA.

The genie is essentially already out of the bottle, and we are too far down the road when it comes to the role and importance of value-based care. With the healthcare sector nearing 20 percent of U.S. GDP, this arena will continue to expand in scope and importance through the trajectory of innovation and data.

For anyone who attended HIMSS 2017, it is clear that the future of managing care will be about leveraging data to make successful clinical decisions. In fact, the demand for data is growing at a rapid pace – with hospitals, practices and post-acute care settings all needing to effectively share health records.

Population health is also gaining in importance as the health care system shifts to a value-based system. As a result, the importance of having complete patient health data wherever care is rendered is increasing exponentially.  This also includes pharmacies now sending clinical data back to the providers, which enhances the quality of care in the post acute care arena. 

These are just a few examples of how the effective transfer of patient information is transforming care. Many more exist, and many more will emerge in the future – so much so that it will be pervasive.  At a recent public health forum, Andrew Baskin, National Medical Director at Aetna, stated that within 10-20 years, every reasonable sized metropolitan area would be covered by an ACO (or similar entity).  This can only happen with a ubiquity of health information across all areas.

The health data sharing trajectory 

The ACA and Meaningful Use were the basis for what kicked of this current data-exchange trajectory, which was further developed and enhanced by industry. As is often the case, industry can be the driver of new innovations in the wake of new government regulations. 

For example, we no longer need to rely on cumbersome faxes (i.e., “fax and pray”) for sharing health information. We now have computable data that is more in-depth and concise, allowing for various data sets to be merged for a fuller picture.

We also have a RosettaHealth user that manages a robust referral management effort that helps any health system to find and connect with the appropriate specialists – and provides information about previous care providers. This effort was not an ACA requirement, and grew out of industry continually innovating. 

It’s like email, but better

There was a time – around the emergence of the web – when emails could rarely be shared outside a company or organization.  Before the ACA, the state of health data exchange was very similar : share within your organization, and share outside on a case-by-case basis.  At that time, sharing of records was mainly though as specialized point-to-point connections.

Today, things are much more effective with the ability to communicate with everyone – no matter the interoperability standards.  Just as with email, it’s not about only being able to correspond with other Gmail users.  Health organizations need a simple connection that allows them to seamlessly share patient data with everyone. 

Thankfully, the exchange of electronic records can be affordable and ubiquitous for Hospitals, Health Systems, ACOs, mobile health apps, and Big Data needs like public and population health.  New solutions can easily send and receive medical information, and maintain connections with other health providers no matter what systems they are using. These SaaS-based solutions aim to mitigate some of the biggest challenges of electronic health record sharing – data access and interoperability.


There is increasing market pressure to make value-based care work across the entire healthcare ecosystem, needing to connect and share patient information at all sites.  This means that ACA or no ACA, sharing patient records will always be a priority, and it can now be achieved cost-effectively with the right tools. 

The genie is truly out of the bottle, the question is who will be the leaders that leverage health information exchange to drive down costs, and enhance the overall quality of care?

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