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Most Providers Still Lacking Effective EHR Interoperability

Few healthcare providers have sufficient EHR interoperability to find and use patient data from providers using different EHR technology.

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Effective EHR interoperability still eludes most healthcare providers, according to the 2016 KLAS Interoperability Report.

Using an interoperability measurement tool developed in conjunction with healthcare providers and health IT vendors, KLAS researchers found that only six percent of clinicians could access electronic data on their patients residing in a different EHR system immediately inform their treatment of patients.

“There is widespread agreement that a high level of interoperability across different EMRs is imperative to improving patient care. This report illustrates the considerable amount of work that still needs to be done in order to achieve impactful record exchange," KLAS VP of Provider Relations Bob Cash said in a public statement.

"We learned that challenges related to effective sharing, especially with a different EMR vendor than your own, are experienced across all facility types and across all vendors,” he continued. “No vendor community stood out as exceptional in consistently and effectively sharing with partners using a different EMR. The good news? Vendors and providers seem committed to working through challenges identified in the study, and this year’s findings will serve as a baseline for tracking progress in coming years.”

The KLAS tool comprises four metrics: the availability of information, ability to locate records, clinical view (i.e., external EHR data integrated into the user's EHR system); and impact on patient care.

For the first metric, 28 percent who described the availability of patient information as "nearly always or often" compared to 72 percent of providers reporting "sometimes, rarely, or never."

Only a fraction of those responded positively to the first category (13%) indicated that they were able to locate patient records in a different EHR technology, slightly less than the 15 percent who described the ability as "difficult or impossible."

Of that 13 percent, 8 percent reported having the ability to view external EHRs as either integrated into their own system or via a tab (i.e., clinical view), and five percent indicated the use of a portal to view this information.

Finally, 6 percent of those with a positive clinical view experience described the ability to use external EHR data "nearly or often" in patient care while the remaining 2 percent reported "sometimes, rarely or never."

athenahealth claims an EHR interoperability victory

Following the publishing of the report, athenahealth championed itself a leader in data sharing. In public statement issued earlier this week, the Massachusetts-based health IT called attention to three findings from the KLAS 2016 Interoperability Report.

First, athenahealth inferred the fact that 65 percent of its customers could use external EHR data to impact care to be a sign of interoperability satisfaction.

Second, the health IT company called attention to its unique role as the only active participant of both the CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality. According to the KLAS report, athenahealth alone has live validated customers using both services. Epic Systems and Cerner had validated live customers on one or the other health data exchange platforms (the former, Carequality; the latter, CommonWell).

Third, the company credits its athenahealth network with making athenahealth a leader in exchange among customers of its technology.

As part of its announcement, athenahealth CEO & President Jonathan Bush called on Congress to remove legislative obstacles to data sharing.

“Reports such as KLAS’ are incredibly important, as they bring some level of transparency to the state of vendors’ performance against what they promise," he said. "However, it is our deep belief that to truly advance information-sharing across healthcare that government must relax both the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark laws. Both inhibit provider organizations and physicians from fully innovating around how they organize, share costs and exchange information. We believe these laws are inadvertently working against the very intention of the Department of Health and Human Services related to tying payments to value versus volume, and they must be reformed.”

As part of his support for advancing EHR interoperability, Bush has repeatedly called out Epic for its part in limiting information sharing, which latter has refuted.

Dig Deeper:

How Epic Systems Is Advancing Healthcare Interoperability
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