As healthcare continues the shift into more patient-centered care, its imperative interoperability improves to drive care outcomes and improve patient access to data.
Along with technology, interoperability is constantly improving and adapting to match the growth of technology in the healthcare sector. The need for seamless data transactions are crucial for health systems, which need to utilize patient health data and seamlessly transfer it within or among healthcare provider organizations.
Patients may have a number of specialists and other healthcare options, which means providers need to be able to successfully transfer that data in real-time for peak care.
As the calendar flips to 2020, patient-directed, patient data access, shared records, and most commonly, EHR-to-EHR are the four pillars of interoperability to examine as the calendar flips to 2020.
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The 21st Century Cures Act is designed to fuel patient access to healthcare records, while driving interoperability of these records between patients and providers.
New provisions from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology increases transparency and efficiency in healthcare and focuses on preventing information blocking and expanding how patients can access their healthcare data.
“By supporting secure access of electronic health information and strongly discouraging information blocking, the proposed rule supports the bi-partisan 21st Century Cures Act,” stated National Coordinator, Don Rucker, MD, in February. “The rule would support patients accessing and sharing their electronic health information, while giving them the tools to shop for and coordinate their own health care.”
However, according to an Accenture survey of 76 healthcare IT executives and 19 health payers, many health organizations seem unprepared and unfamiliar with these rules, which could result in substantial penalties if they are not properly educated.
“The ultimate goal of the upcoming regulations is to enhance customer choice and improve patient services and outcomes by vastly improving patient and cross-network access to patient medical records,” said Andy Truscott, managing director and technology consulting lead in Accenture’s Health practice and a member of US federal government advisory groups on health IT and HL7.
“Our survey findings are a wake-up call for health organizations and agencies that remain relatively uninformed about the regulations, or who are not actively preparing,” continued Truscott. “Complying with the regulations will provide them with a major opportunity to enhance the services they provide and to fundamentally improve consumer engagement in their healthcare.”
Only 18 percent of executive respondents expressed that they are “very familiar” with the new regulations, while 17 percent said they are unaware with the regulations. Roughly 53 percent said they are “somewhat familiar,” and 12 percent said they are “vaguely familiar.”
Thirty-six percent of payers responded that they are “very familiar” with the regulations, compared to 16 percent of providers.
Only five percent of providers felt “very prepared” for the new regulations, while 26 percent of the payers felt “very prepared” for the next step.
Patient Data Access
It’s crucial for patients to be able to access their health records on their smart-phone to enable EHR vendors to make the data accessible in real-time.
Apple Health Records are increasingly popping up in health systems across the country, making the patient care experience more convenient and easily accessible at patients’ fingertips, available on their respective iPhone.
“When patients have their medical records easily available in one view right on their phone, the entire patient care experience improves – patients have a better understanding of their overall health and clinicians have access to important information regarding their patient’s medical history, right when they need it,” said Lea Ann Eickelschulte, Blessing Health System’s chief information officer, a health system that just partnered with Allscripts.
Instead of logging in to multiple provider websites or attempting to find paper copies of their medical records, the patient will have access to their medical information right on their iPhone. With just one tap on the screen, the individual can easily access their allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals.
Apple worked with the healthcare community to take a consumer-friendly approach, creating Health Records based on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a standard for transferring electronic medical records.
Although some patients may be wary of their private medical documents on their phone, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook prides himself on Apple being a trustworthy technology company. When health record data is transferred from a healthcare institution to the Health app, it is encrypted and does not navigate through Apple’s network, the company says. The individual can utilize their iPhone passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID to keep their information safe and secure.
The list of healthcare institutions that supports Health Records is growing rapidly across the country. Apple Health’s continued partnerships with more EHR vendors will make patient portal interoperability even more prevalent.
Shared Records (HIE)
With technology constantly evolving and options for receiving information increasing, health information exchange is critical for improving interoperability.
One hundred percent of hospitals in New York and over 100,000 healthcare professionals are connected to the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY). It enables the exchange of health information (HIE) for patients and providers across the state, no matter which health system the patient visits.
“Numerous studies have already shown the improvement in health care and reduction in unnecessary healthcare spending that can result from the wide and meaningful use of health information exchange,” said Valerie Grey, executive director of NYeC. “This statewide estimate for New York gives us a sense of the magnitude of the current impact and what tomorrow could bring as the SHIN-NY continues to grow and evolve.”
As SHIN-NY continues to expand, efforts to further support value-based care and increase the number of long-term care, behavioral health, and community-based organizations connections are underway, said NYeC.
“HIE is a fundamental tool that I, as a provider, have directly observed positively impact patient care and outcomes,” said Mitchell A. Adler, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Northwell Health Physician Partners and chair of NYeC’s Provider Advisory Group. “Real time access to patient information when I need it is vital to my clinical decision-making and presents clear value to the healthcare system.”
EHR-to-EHR interoperability is the most common of the four, but it’s not always as seamless.
According to a survey from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), nearly one-third of hospitals and health systems reported that their interoperability endeavors are insufficient, even within their own health organizations.
“This survey supports other research we have conducted at HIMSS which shows that healthcare is making strides advancing interoperability. However, this research also suggests providers feel most successful at sharing data within their own health systems, and less often report success sharing medical data with payers, patients, or other health systems and partners,” said Janet King, senior director of market insights at HIMSS Media.
A large percentage of respondents aren’t as confident in their ability to share data with other organizations. However, a substantial number of respondents believe that interoperability within their own health system works.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said their organizations are highly successful in sharing data within their own health systems, and 58 percent said their organizations are highly successful in sharing data with payers. Additionally, 57 percent said their health systems successfully share information with their patients, and 51 percent said they easily share data with pharmaceutical departments.
In contrast, just 37 percent said they can successfully share information with other health systems, and 35 percent said they successfully share data with other partners.
Although interoperability is improving at all stages, it is still a work in progress entering 2020.
Moving forward, the healthcare sector will need to continue to adapt with technology to provide the best care for its patients.
Source: EHR Intelligence