Interoperability shows progress, but it's slow progress at best

Hospitals’ use of data for patient care from outside providers is low, with only 18.7 percent of hospitals reporting they “often” used these data, Health Affairs report finds.
By Bernie Monegain
12:57 PM
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A new Health Affairs report on the state of interoperability in healthcare reveals scant progress in spite of what the authors of the report called “substantial efforts.”

The researchers looked at 2014 and 2015 data and found that 2014 national data suggested that hospital engagement with interoperability were at low levels.

They examined the 2015 data for national trends in engagement in four areas of interoperability: finding, sending, receiving and integrating electronic patient information from outside providers. They found small gains in 2015, with 29.7 percent of hospitals engaging in all four domains compared to 24.5 percent in 2014.

[Also: NQF says interoperability goes far beyond EHR-to-EHR data exchange]

Sending information showed an increase of 8.1 percent while receiving information showed an increase of 8.4 percent.

But there were no changes in integrating systems, however. Hospitals’ use of data for patient care from outside providers was low, with only 18.7 percent of hospitals reporting they “often” used these data.

“Our results reveal that hospitals’ progress toward interoperability is slow and that progress is focused on moving information between hospitals, not on ensuring usability of information in clinical decisions.”

The researchers concluded that in 2015, fewer than 30 percent of hospitals engaged in the four primary areas of interoperability, a slight increase over 2014. Engagement in one domain, integrating outside information, was stagnant.

“This is a concern because integration is critical to data usability, and lack of integration was found to be a top barrier to the use of outside data in clinical care,” the researchers wrote.

On a high note, researchers found that each of the four domains of interoperability was positively associated with the availability and use of outside clinical information and that nearly half of hospitals were “often” or “sometimes” using this information in the delivery of patient care, there is still much room for progress, they wrote.

However, they pointed to issues with integrating information into existing EHR systems. Clinical workflows were the most commonly cited barriers for hospitals that were not routinely using external information for patient care. It further underscores the need to shift the policy focus from transmitting information to information usability

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com