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Most Providers Report Lack of Health IT Interoperability

More than two-thirds of surveyed providers agree that a lack of health IT interoperability is negatively impacting value-based care.

Health IT Interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A new eHealth Initiative survey found 68 percent of providers believe current interoperability solutions fail to help meet the goals of value-based care.

Researchers in 2017 Survey on Access to Patient Information gathered responses from 107 respondents including CEOs and other executive leadership, IT leadership, clinical staff, and administrative leadership from hospitals, health systems, medical groups, physician practices, HIEs, and other organizations.

The survey addressed issues including health data exchange, interoperability, federal regulations, patient access to information, and patient engagement.

Researchers found that most providers believe technology has improved healthcare quality since 2008, but certain areas—including interoperability—are still in need of significant improvements.

“Sixty-three percent agree that technology has helped increase healthcare quality since 2008,” wrote researchers in a presentation of survey findings. “Fifty-five percent agree that great progress has been made in using technology to engage consumers in the management of their health.”

Specifically, EHR data collection and analytics tools have positively affected the majority of surveyed healthcare organizations.  Sixty-six percent of respondents stated their current data collection and analytics tools are driving some or significant benefits and value-based care outcomes.

“Only 14% report that they are not driving outcomes,” noted researchers.

Providers also agree on the positive impact of interoperability. Eighty-seven percent of providers agreed interoperability would expedite access to externally sourced patient data, while 81 percent agreed it would assist in identifying gaps in care during patient encounters.

While technology has bolstered patient care since the advent of the HITECH Act in 2009, most providers agreed there is a disconnect between what hospitals need and the solutions the market provides.

Seventy-nine percent of surveyed providers agreed that strong interoperability capabilities are a key IT requirement for a hospital to successfully transition to value-based care. However, 68 percent of respondents stated current interoperability solutions do not meet provider needs during this transition.

Compounding the disconnect between provider needs and market offerings is an apparent disconnect between value and federal regulations.

Seventy-one percent of surveyed providers stated additional federal incentives need to be created or redesigned to enable healthcare delivery system transformation. Furthermore, only 29 percent of respondents stated current federal policies, committees, and regulations are sufficient to help the nation attain meaningful interoperability by 2020.

While providers overwhelmingly agree current federal regulations and incentives will not drive interoperability advancements over the next three years, the majority expect federal entities will continue to invest heavily in improvements. Fifty-eight percent of respondents anticipate that interoperability budgets will increase over the next two to three years.

Survey findings also indicated some confusion still clouds provider understanding of federal incentive programs such as the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) as part of the Quality Payment Program under MACRA.

Only 35 percent of respondents agreed that providers clearly understand which clinical information can be legally shared with other providers and payers. Meanwhile, 57 percent of respondents agreed that they understand the current regulatory requirements for meaningful use and MIPS.

Ultimately, researchers found most providers see a pervasive disconnect between regulations, solutions, and implementation.

“Interoperability continues to grow in importance but regulations are sometimes unclear or difficult to implement,” wrote researchers. “Market is meeting the regulatory needs, which are not necessarily the business needs.”

Additionally, most surveyed providers agreed market pressures and value should drive change in healthcare instead of federal regulations.

“There is some perception that regulations are driving interoperability. Interoperability changes should be driven by business value,” researchers concluded.

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