ONC report: Hospitals are wrangling with multiple means of exchanging health data

In addition to EHRs and HIEs, faxes and paper are still common ways to share medical data.
By Diana Manos
04:16 PM

Despite all the progress with EHR adoption, a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) shows hospitals are still using faxes to share information and most of them are still wrangling multiple electronic health record systems.

Hospital health information exchange is complex, involving a variety of methods, according to ONC, which used data gathered from hospital CIOs in partnership with the American Hospital Association between January and mid-May of this year.

The study also showed: half of hospitals used four or more electronic methods to send summary of care records, one-third used more than three and nine out of 10 hospitals that used at least six different electronic methods said their clinicians have information electronically available at the point of care. 

What's more, Healthcare IT News sister company HIMSS Analytics found earlier this year that healthcare providers have an average of 16 EMRs across their affiliated practices. 

When it comes to exchange outside of the hospital, most are using a variety of electronic methods, including HISPs, national networks, or state, regional and local HIOs. HISPs were used by most hospitals for sending (68 percent) or receiving (49 percent) summary of care records, ONC said.


Most experts and federal officials believe healthcare providers could advance the efforts of information exchange with the use of national networks. Hospitals are taking to health information networks, with 71 percent participating in at least one national network, ONC found.

This includes Surescripts, a third-party intermediary that enables the exchange of prescriptions and medication-related data. Excluding Surescripts, about half of hospitals participated in at least one national network.

In this latest report, ONC said the Trusted Exchange Framework might help to simplify the exchange of health information through the use of health information networks.

The report follows an Oct. 29 ONC report, which showed that hospitals are making strides on EHR adoptions and interoperability — but work remains. More than 90 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals are using 2015 edition certified technology or plan to be soon, says National Coordinator Don Rucker, MD.


Yet despite the widespread EHR adoption, the latest KLAS report says governance and organizations dragging their feet on participating in new national interoperability frameworks, such as the CommonWell-Carequality link, is holding back interoperability.

KLAS says that as of now, all of the most prevalent EHR vendors except Allscripts and MEDHOST are connected to the national framework provided by CommonWell-Carequality – "putting the ability to exchange patient records within the reach of most acute care or clinic-based provider organizations, regardless of size or financial situation." 

Diana Manos is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance writer specializing in healthcare, wellness and technology. 

Twitter: @Diana_Manos
Email the writer: dnewsprovider@gmail.com 

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

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