MACRA and Healthcare Data

MACRA and Healthcare Data

When even the vice president of the United States can’t get the health results he needs, you know there’s a healthcare data problem — specifically, with electronic health record systems (EHRs).

Interoperability has long been a complaint with EHR systems … and those complaints are going to get louder as the industry shifts to value-based and population health standards. Now, some of the nation’s top-ranking officials are voicing their frustrations at well, including the vice president.

“We couldn’t get [MRI results] from Walter Reed where [Beau, his son] was at the time for therapy, back to MD Anderson [in Houston] because the systems couldn’t talk to one another,” Joe Biden said at the recent Healthcare Datapalooza conference ( “I’m the vice president of the United States. I have an influential son-in-law who is a well-known first-rate surgeon. But it took all that and more to get it put on a disc and flown down.”

At the same event, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell expressed her personal frustrations with EHRs as well.

“I recently tried to change an appointment and it took seven times,” she said. But the frustration isn’t limited to the top levels. A recent survey conducted by eHealth Initiative showed that complex EHRs are “overburdening physicians at the point of care enough to inhibit progress” toward population health management goals.

“Because the systems don’t talk to each other it’s not easy to integrate and share data across,” Tricia Nguyen, executive vice president or population health at Texas Health Resources, said in a recent article on HealthcareITNews ( doctors).

“That’s one thing we could solve, and if we could make it transferable across care settings and providers that (would be) a huge win.”

So, there’s a problem. And, believe it or not, the set of proposed rules that are often criticized for their volume and complexity may hold part of the answer toward making EHR interoperability a reality.

Yes, the answer may be found in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

Shawn Griffin, chief quality and informatics officer for a Houston-based physician network, said that MACRA showed that the industry is acknowledging the interoperability issue.

“The updated regulations regarding Meaningful Use and MACRA legislation was really an enlightened view of recognizing that EMRs were getting overbuilt and there was a loss of efficiency and usefulness for their tools,” he said. In Griffin’s view, MACRA may be complex … but he sees potential in the “simplification we have seen” in MACRA’s reporting.

Lawrence Casalino, professor of public health at Weill-Cornell College, agrees with Griffin.

“There are going to be howls of outrage, but MACRA is going to move physicians much faster into organizations that are capable of doing value-based care,” he said in an article in Medical Economics (

So, there’s still a long ways to go in regards to interoperability, but MACRA may actually be one of the first key steps toward reaching population health goals.

COVID-19 Resource Center    Visit our Resource Center to stay up to date.​