Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

EHR Interoperability, Integration Focus of HIT Replacement

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Healthcare providers still see EHR interoperability as an elusive goal as they continue the quest to revamp and replace their health IT infrastructure with integrated, streamlined systems that merge clinical documentation with revenue cycle management. 

EHR interoperability and integration

In a pair of new industry surveys, Black Book Rankings examines why cloud-based, integrated, interoperable clinical and practice management technologies are in such high demand among providers angling for a leg up on meaningful use requirements, population health management, and shifting opportunities for value-based reimbursement.

Vendors of cloud-based EHR systems tout their simplicity, capacity for instant updating, and security as major selling points, and providers are taking the bait in increasingly large numbers.  With lower implementation and maintenance costs, as well as easy installation, the newest cloud-based EHR products are starting to give providers what they’ve been looking for since the start of meaningful use.

EHR interoperability is at the top of that list, and vendors are finally responding to the need for streamlined systems that marry clinical and financial data in-house with the capability to conduct health information exchange with external business partners.  When the price is right, 79 percent of small practice providers are likely to move to the cloud, Black Book says.

“The focus of healthcare technology vendors needs to be on mobile, cloud, and data integration to successfully meet the future demands of the changing healthcare landscape,” said Doug Brown, Managing Partner of Black Book. "The bigger issues of interoperability and population health outcomes, quality of care reporting and ICD-10 have framed the third generation EHR vendor, and the majority (69%) of small practices plan to increase their investment in the advancements made by their current cloud-based vendor.”

Whether cloud-based or server-bound, providers are demanding more integration of health data across the organization in order to support improved revenue cycle management.  With accountable care on the brain, 86 percent of small healthcare providers are looking to transition to a single, integrated practice management and EHR suite by 2017.  Ninety-two percent of those providers are only considering practice management and revenue cycle management systems that are deeply integrated with the clinical EHR. 

And they are willing to move to a brand new vendor that can provide those services, Brown added, in order to squeeze the most value out of their investments.  "High performing vendors have emerged from the pack as practice implementations succeed and fail, meaningful use attestations are reviewed, and users assess their vendor’s capabilities to meet their individual practice needs, particularly managed care reimbursement and accountable care organization (ACO) billing,” he said.

“The majority (70%) of smaller and solo practice physicians have still not settled on a technology suite or set of products that delivers to their expectations on meaningful use, clinician usability, and coordinated billing and claims, hence, the relentlessly moving EHR marketplace,” Brown continued.  This may be because 78 percent of small practices are keenly aware that they are underutilizing their technology, and want to remedy the situation.

"The EHR/practice billing vendor's abilities to meet the evolving demands of interoperability, networking, mobile devices, accountable care, patient accessibility, customization for specialty workflow, and reimbursement are the main factors that the replacement mentality and late adoption remain volatile especially among solo and small practices," says Brown. 

With nearly 70 percent of providers indicating that their first-generation EHRs have not lived up to their promises in relation to usability and productivity, EHR replacement remains a significant force in the health IT marketplace. 

Top-ranked products, most of which harness the cloud, attempt to address these ongoing user complaints by providing increased clinical analytics and clinical decision support capabilities while placing a premium on interoperability, patient management, and health data exchange as providers prepare for participation in value-based reimbursement and other data-driven initiatives.

“As risk sharing increases, so will the demand for meaningful, robust data sharing between providers and payers regardless of the model EHR employed. “ Brown predicts. “If the interfaces for interoperability between the HIE and stakeholders is too difficult to evaluate and analyze risk, the more likely we will see another round of EHR replacements, cloud and server based.”