Technology vendors take heed! Standards-based interoperability will be a top federal priority over the next several years. That means vendors will soon be held accountable for making sure their products can exchange health data with products that other vendors sell.

The warning came just days after the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its final rule for Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. That rule outlines measures that providers must complete by 2014 in order to show that they are making “meaningful use” of EHRs, according to Healthcare IT News.

“We will pay close attention to whether the requirements in the rule are sufficient to make vendor-to-vendor exchange attainable for providers," said National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD. “If there is not sufficient progress or we continue to see barriers that create data silos or ‘walled gardens,’ we will revisit our meaningful use approach and consider other options to achieve our policy intent."

Information Follows the Patient

Under Stage 2, interoperable EHRs will use standards that make it possible for information to follow patients regardless of where they live, who provides their care or which vendor designed their provider’s EHR system. The goal is to ease patients’ hospital discharges and transitions of care while making regular sharing of health data a common occurrence among providers and between providers and patients.

“I want there to be no question about the seriousness of our intent on this issue,” said Mostashari. “The bottom line is, it’s what’s right for the patient, and it’s what we have to do as a country to get to better health, better health care and lower costs. That’s what meaningful use is all about."