In an effort to boost the quality of patient care throughout the health care industry, the sector has continued to work toward enhanced interoperability and efficient data exchange between primary doctors, specialty physicians, hospitals and other care settings. The industry has come a long way in progressing in these areas. This is likely due to the large number of health providers who have started adopting electronic health records to streamline daily processes and become eligible for meaningful use incentives provided by the federal government.
Erica Galvez, the exchange portfolio manager at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, recently published a statement in a Health IT Buzz blog post that said data exchange and EHR interoperability in hospital settings have largely improved thanks to the high rates of EHR implementation across all care settings in the industry.
Interoperability in hospitals on the rise
The ONC released an issue brief that reported 40 percent of hospitals across the country have technology at their disposal that makes patient data available from external care settings. The officials also stated that the four standards of interoperability – finding, sending, receiving and using patient data within EHRs – are currently being met by 23 percent of organizations – an increase over the past few years.
"When individuals arrive at a hospital, whether on their own accord or in an ambulance during an emergency, the availability of key clinical information – such as current medications, test results or medication allergies – can help the attending care team provide safe, high quality care," Galvez explained in the brief. "This information often resides in health records across multiple provider settings. Lacking access to this information may put a patient's health and wellness at risk."
Galvez noted that the ONC is currently working on the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap to ensure this progress continues. The roadmap has the ultimate goal of ensuring that by the end of 2017, nearly all health professionals are able to find, send, receive and use patients' clinical information when necessary. Once all care settings across the health care continuum are able to meet all four requirements, everyone from patients to clinicians and care givers will see the benefits.
Findings show progression with data exchange
The ONC found many important results when looking at how the sector has progressed in terms of health data exchange and interoperability in 2014. For example, it found that 78 percent of hospitals have the capability to send patient summary of care records, according to the brief.
Almost 90 percent of the providers who are able to meet the four interoperability standards were also found to have health IT that enables them to obtain essential clinical data from external providers at the point of care. Those who are able to meet the four criteria for interoperability are more than nine times as likely to report that the necessary clinical information is accessible when they need it than providers who fail to participate in interoperability tasks.
"The results highlighted in this data brief illustrate that while most hospitals have EHRs and are actively exchanging health information electronically, important work remains to ensure that the necessary clinical information is available at the point of care in hospital settings," Galvez said. The ONC's 10-year interoperability roadmap hopes to address many of these systematic concerns to promote greater exchange of data and better access to information at the point of care.
The ONC plans to continue assessing and reporting on the industry's progress, especially on hospitals, as they are a good representation of where the health care continuum stands. Identifying any obstacles and barriers will help to continue improving interoperability and ultimately enhance care quality.