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AHA, AAMC Urge Stakeholders to Advance Healthcare Interoperability

AHA and six other national hospital associations recently outlined a six-point plan to improve healthcare interoperability.

AHA and six other national hospital associations urge stakeholders to improve healthcare interoperability.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- AHA, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and five other national hospital associations recently pressed public and private stakeholders to advance healthcare interoperability and health data exchange using a six-point plan.

 The January 2019 interoperability report offers recommendations to pursue pathways to interoperability through improvements in security and privacy, efficient solutions, cost-effective infrastructure, health IT standards, shared best practices, and data sharing that supports population health management and other burgeoning areas of health IT use.

In addition to AHA and AAMC, the report includes input from America’s Essential Hospitals (AEH), Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), Children’s Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), and National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (NABH).

“We see interoperability in action all around us,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “Mobile phones can call each other regardless of make, model or operating system. The hospital field has made good headway, but it’s time to complete the job.”

“We are united in calling for a truly interoperable system that allows all providers and patients to benefit from shared health records and data, leading to fully informed care decisions,” Pollack added.

The group of national hospital associations also released an infographic along with the report highlighting the benefits of health data exchange and the remaining barriers to interoperability.

Benefits to health data exchange included improved care coordination, higher levels of safety and quality across hospitals, patient empowerment, increased efficiency, reduced cost, and more accurate tracking and prevention efforts against public health threats through public health registries.

“Together, we seek to enlist and expand public and private stakeholder support around this goal to benefit all individuals, their families and caregivers,” wrote the associations in the report.

While several obstacles still stand in the way of true interoperability in healthcare, health IT developers and healthcare organizations have made significant progress in recent years.

According to AHA, 93 percent of patients had the ability to view their health records online in 2017 compared to only 27 percent of patients in 2012.

Additionally, 88 percent of hospitals are now able to send patient EHRs to ambulatory care providers outside their hospital network, compared to 37 percent of hospitals in 2012.

“These capabilities are important, but do not yet reach our goals,” maintained the associations.

Sixty-three percent of providers highlight problems with incompatible EHR systems as a top remaining barrier to interoperability. Thirty-seven percent of providers view difficulties with patient matching as a serious impediment to interoperability, while 35 percent see the high cost of health data exchange with outside systems as a significant barrier.

Through its six-point agenda, AHA and other associations hope to overcome these remaining challenges for more seamless health data exchange.

Stakeholder collaboration is key to achieving this aim.

“True interoperability that advances improved health care and outcomes is within reach with effective federal policies and key stakeholders doing their part,” the associations wrote. “By aligning around goals that encompass privacy, security, standards and infrastructure, hearing all voices, and committing to share best practices and lessons learned, we will make progress.”

Forthcoming efforts to improve interoperability including the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) present an opportunity to unite stakeholders and promote standardization across the industry.

HHS is slated to release a second draft of the framework and common agreement in 2019.

“The movement toward true, national interoperability has been underway for some time,” concluded the associations. “As national hospital associations, we are united in our conviction that it is time to finish the job and grant all patients the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their health care decisions are based on the best and most complete information possible.”

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