In advance of the AHIMA21 Virtual Conference, we have invited session speakers to explore their healthcare domains through short blog posts. You can learn more about individual speakers and their specific sessions via the links at the end of each post. In this post, speaker Debra Primeau discusses the impact new interoperability regulations will have on health data and information. 


Interoperability in healthcare enables different information technology systems to communicate and exchange usable data. This allows providers to have access to all data for a patient being treated. 

HIMSS defines interoperability as “the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (‘systems’) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.” 

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT has deeply impacted the healthcare sector with policies like the 21st Century Cures Act, which has since led to regulations around information blocking and interoperability that give patients full access to their health data. 

In addition to the Cures Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule on March 9, 2020, which allows patients to easily access their claims and encounter information. The main purpose is to implement certain provisions of the Cures Act that will advance interoperability and support the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (EHI). 

In program year 2021, CMS will continue to implement a performance-based scoring methodology for eligible hospitals and critical-access hospitals (CAHs) that attest to CMS under the Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program.  

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is an economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009. “ARRA includes federal tax relief, expansion of unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions and domestic spending in education, health care, and infrastructure, including the energy sector.” It also includes non-economic recovery related longer-term plans (e.g. a study of the effectiveness of medical treatments). 

ARRA outlined expectations for health information technology (HIT) to electronically exchange data. Interoperability is regarded as key to improving patient care.  

According to a recent KLAS Research and CHIME report, "Interoperability continues to improve in healthcare, with 67 percent of providers in 2020 reporting they often or nearly always have access to needed records, up from 28 percent in 2017.” 

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced a new center that aims to accelerate public health data exchange interoperability to support public health forecasting.  

The center’s top goal is to provide public health officials with the information needed to mitigate the effects of disease threats.  

The center will set out to promote interoperability across the healthcare industry for public health data exchange and to support the use of open-source software and application programming interfaces (APIs) for public health through data exchange. 

Interoperability is progressing, and many organizations are prepared for significant progress in the coming years. A lot of progress has been made, but there’s still work to do. 

Enhancing nationwide interoperability is critical in shaping the future of healthcare. 


Debra Primeau, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, ( is president of Primeau Consulting Group. She will co-present the session "A Whole New World of Interoperability" with James Hoover of Medarcus during the AHIMA21 Virtual Conference on Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 1:40 pm–2:10 pm. Register for AHIMA21 here and add Debra and James’ session to your calendar of events.