AHA: Inadequate Interoperability Hinders Several Aspects of Care

Despite the lofty goal of patient data exchange through the various digital patient data systems, interoperability continues to be a pipe dream.

The thing is, without the ability to exchange information, several areas of healthcare are being adversely affected according to American Hospital Association, EHR Intelligence reports.

The report, titled “Why Interoperability Matters,” stresses three areas of health care that would benefit from improved interoperability:

  • Care coordination
  • Patient engagement
  • Reporting of public health, quality and safety data

Coordination of Care
According to the report, data exchange is key to care coordination. However, AHA said that different providers often are not able to send relevant patient data to one another because many electronic health record systems are not interoperable since they are using different systems by different vendors.

Currently, despite the age of digitalization and technology, patients are being sent out of a doctor’s office with a downloaded hard copy to be sent to the next specialist or the record is still being faxed.

AHA also said that interoperability and the ability to view a patient’s entire treatment record would help providers avoid unnecessary treatment and cut costs. Tests that were recently done and have normal results would not have to be performed again or duplicated.

Patient Engagement

A great number of patients have no access to their electronic health information because of limited interoperability. Instead, the report noted that patients

“must go to each of their providers’ patient portals and download unintegrated data. Making sense of this, particularly for patients … who frequently have many health encounters a year, is difficult.”

Public Health, Quality Measure Reporting

The report also notes that healthcare providers could use EHRs to track health care trends and analyze population health data, as well as report on quality measures, if there were to be interoperability.

According to the report, “Hospitals are happy to report [these] data to improve public health but must contend with a wide variety of reporting formats and transmission technologies to do so, including faxing, mailing, emailing, Web forms and secure file transfer protocols.”

As a result, providers waste time and resources, the report noted.

Workarounds, Recommendations

According to the report, providers have implemented some programs to overcome poor interoperability, including:

  • Health information exchanges
  • Interfaces that allow EHR systems to send information to a separate system.

AHA concluded that such solutions often are costly. Further, it noted that many practices cannot maintain HIEs after their funding, often from federal grants, expires.
AHA recommended that officials develop more specific standards for the use of EHRs and health IT.

For more information, check out http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2015/10/13/aha-inadequate-interoperability-hinders-several-aspects-of-care

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