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EHR Interoperability Improving Among Acute Care Hospitals

EHR interoperability between hospitals has increased by 41 percent since 2016, according to data from AHA’s IT Supplement Survey.

Nearly 90 percent of hospitals have the interoperability capabilities to send patient summary of care documents, according to ONC.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Acute care hospitals are steadily improving their EHR interoperability capabilities for more advanced health data exchange, according to ONC leaders in a recent Health IT Buzz blogpost.

ONC analyzed 2017 data from AHA’s Information Technology Supplement Survey and found 93 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals have upgraded to 2015 Edition Certified EHR technology (CEHRT), or plan to upgrade in the near future.

“Today, nearly all non-federal acute care hospitals have adopted certified health IT,” wrote National Coordinator for Health IT Don Rucker, MD, and Director of Research and Evaluation Talisha Searcy.

“New data show that this momentum continues with the introduction of the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria (2015 Edition), which includes new technical capabilities (such as application programming interfaces) that were not required as part of the prior 2014 Edition,” the duo added.

According to ONC officials, AHA data shows hospitals are engaging in health data exchange at a higher rate than ever before.

Eighty-eight percent of hospitals can now send patient summary of care records, while 74 percent can receive patient summary of care records from outside sources.

“Also in the past year, hospitals that reported they can query or integrate this data significantly increased,” stated Rucker and Searcy. “Hospitals engaged in all four interoperability domains – electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating – increased 41 percent since 2016.”

Despite this progress, hospitals are far from achieving the level of interoperability necessary to seamlessly locate, send, receive, and integrate patient health data into EHR systems.

“While this growth is impressive, important work remains, as only four-in-ten hospitals reported they can find patient health information as well as send, receive, and integrate patient summary of care records from sources outside their health system,” the duo wrote.

“Engaging in all four interoperability domains is critical to ensuring that clinicians have information they need at the point of care,” maintained Rucker and Searcy.

In 2017, 83 percent of hospitals that had the capabilities to send, receive, locate, and integrate patient health information from outside organizations into their EHR systems reported having the ability to access information electronically at the point of care.

“This is at least 20 percent higher than hospitals that engage in three domains and almost seven times higher than hospitals that don’t engage in any domain,” noted Rucker and Searcy.

The federal agency is currently working to carry out the aims of the 21st Century Cures Act as part of an effort to move interoperability further.

“ONC looks forward to continuing our engagements with the health IT community on accelerating interoperability progress,” the team wrote.

These efforts include implementing a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) designed to streamline health data exchange, promote health data standards use, and advance interoperability.

ONC has so far released a first draft of the framework and common agreement. In addition to promoting network-to-network connectivity, TEFCA also aims to give patients access to their electronic health data without special effort and help providers and payer organizations receive population-level health data.

ONC is also in the process of releasing information blocking regulations.

The regulations will include a definition of information blocking and an outline of activities that do not constitute information blocking.

A proposed rule containing information blocking regulations and updates to the ONC Health IT Certification Program that support voluntary attestation to TEFCA adoption was slated for release in September.

However, the rule’s release has been delayed. Stakeholders including Health IT Now, AAFP, and AMIA have expressed concern that ONC has not published clear information blocking regulations.

The lack of clear information blocking rules detracts from ONC’s efforts to promote interoperability, the organizations maintained.

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