EHR interoperability is the name of the game, as healthcare providers and health IT vendors begin to realize the importance of connecting systems and medical devices to better communicate and share data throughout a medical organization.
National Coordinator for Health IT Karen B. DeSalvo has mentioned time and time again the need for EHR interoperability throughout the healthcare sector in order to ensure all physicians and healthcare professionals are able to access key data when making vital clinical decisions. Additionally, payers, patients, and hospitals will need the ability to view necessary health information to create a healthier population around the nation.
The Brookings Institution released a policy brief several months ago calling for fixing some of the issues and challenges within the health IT industry including the need for greater EHR interoperability and data exchange. Redundant testing and duplicative data entry would be solved with an increase in medical data sharing.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has gone forward with addressing the challenges and needs of the healthcare community with regard to improving EHR interoperability. From the ONC Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap to the report to Congressaddressing information blocking, this federal agency has put great efforts toward advancing EHR interoperability throughout the country.
Despite ONC’s efforts, according to Chief Informatics Officer Dr. John D. Halamka, there is an access of policy and political barriers to true health information exchange. Halamka states that the Massachusetts State Health Information Exchange (HIE) creates thousands of connections between hospitals and professionals throughout the nation with the help of Health Information Service Providers (HISPs).
The CIO goes on to say the EHR interoperability has a “positive trajectory” and that there is currently sincere progress taking place in boosting health data exchange. More importantly, Halamka states the importance of continuing efforts, identifying gaps in EHR interoperability, and solving these issues. Moving forward is the only real option.
Analysis from the research market firm Frost & Sullivan shows that interoperability and connecting healthcare tools is not uniform around the globe. In order to fix this issue, stakeholders will need to address connectivity standards and create a “digital healthcare strategy” that can connect vital medical devices in efforts to improve care coordination.
“More than 50 percent of healthcare providers do not have a healthcare IT roadmap, although they acknowledge the role of digital health in enhancing healthcare efficiency,” Frost & Sullivan Healthcare Research Analyst Shruthi Parakkal said in a public statement. “Consequently, even the existing interoperability standards such as HL7, DICOM and Direct Project are not being utilized optimally by many providers.”
Instead of requiring upgrading individual systems and investing funds in updating workflows, it would benefit hospitals and clinics if vendors developed products with guaranteed connectivity even when devices are developed by multiple manufacturers.
Parakkal also mentioned the importance of EHR interoperability in healthcare providers’ quest for successfully attesting to meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and qualifying for financial incentives for adopting certified EHR technology. As CIO Dr. John D. Halamka mentioned, we must move forward in order to improve EHR interoperability on a national level.