Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that a number of large health care companies and providers had “agreed to implement three core commitments” to improve access to electronic health records (EHR).  HHS touted the commitments as a significant step toward increased EHR interoperability.

The three core commitments to which the health care entities agreed are as follows:

  1. Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community.
  2. No Blocking/Transparency: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing).
  3. Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security.

HHS highlighted the number and importance of the entities that have agreed to this “Interoperability Pledge.”  According to HHS, the nation’s five largest private health care systems signed the Interoperability Pledge, as well as “[v]endors who provide 90 percent of hospital electronic health records used nationwide.”

Notably, the three commitments in the Pledge are not enforceable.  At most, the Interoperability Pledge represents an agreement by its signatories that access and interoperability are key goals of EHR use.