Electronic Health Records

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Why EHR Interoperability is Vital for Accountable Care

By Vera Gruessner

A major goal of the healthcare industry making headway since the HITECH Act was passed in 2009 is that of care coordination. In order to effectively transition patients between different healthcare settings and coordinate care among multiple medical facilities and specialties, EHR interoperability and health information exchange needs to be flawless.

EHRIntelligence.com spoke with Jean McGill, Clinical Services Coordinator of the American Baptist Homes of the West, to get a better perspective on how cloud-based systems and EHR interoperability affect care coordination. McGill mentioned the benefits of storing patient medical records via the cloud and the importance of EHR interoperability for care coordination.

“We’ve been using the cloud-based solutions for more than 10 years now. As a matter of fact, it’s almost exactly 10 years since we implemented our first EHR,” McGill mentioned. “I’m going to tell you what the disadvantages of a cloud-based solution are, but I’m also going to tell you that it’s been a very minor problem in this decade of use. This disadvantage is maintaining Internet connection. We’ve had situations where from the user-end, we’ve cut through lines or disrupted our local service. There’s always the possibility of interruption from the cloud-based provider as well. That’s happened maybe three times in 10 years.”

“We have backup systems that support us during that time. These are still cumbersome but they are effective. It’s hard to go from an EHR and go to the backup, which involves printing records for use during the outage,” she continued. “So that’s the biggest disadvantage, but overall it has worked very well. I never felt that our information was less than secure or less secure having it in a cloud than if it were hard-lined to our home office.”

When asked what strategies healthcare providers should incorporate in order to improve EHR interoperability and care coordination, McGill answered, “Interoperability is very, very important and its becoming increasingly so on a daily basis. Our ability to share information among ourselves as an organization is paramount and we do that well. As we take on partners, ACOs (accountable care organizations) are becoming more prevalent in our industry.”

“ACOs need access to information as well because they are accountable to the resident on a very different basis than they were when we received someone from the hospital, treated them and released them to their home,” she continued. “Now the care manager of an ACO has to have access to information that in the past they did not need. As we move into a more transparent health industry across all levels of care, it’s going to become more important that we share our information efficiently, effectively, and safely. Interoperability is the way we accomplish that.”

“More partnerships and more sharing-bridges are going to be in demand over the next several years,” she concluded. “It takes a huge effort from the development team to be able to assure that health information exchange platforms all work correctly. Having a cloud-based operation is so much more important to me than it was initially when all I wanted was to be able to pull my clinical chart. It takes a much larger effort to maintain interoperability and to make sure that it’s secure, effective, and efficient.”




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