By Morris Panner
April 19, 2019
Many patients receive care from a village of healthcare providers — who might know nothing about what the other villagers are doing. Digital data silos keep providers in the dark, hindering their ability to dispense the care that is called for by new business models that value quality over quantity. They also stymie patients’ efforts to manage their own healthcare. It’s no wonder the government, the technology industry, and the healthcare sector have been trying to improve interoperability — the ability to seamlessly exchange and use electronic information across systems, vendor platforms, medical devices, apps and other technologies.
“The current lack of interoperability can compromise patient safety, undermine care quality and outcomes, contribute to clinician fatigue and waste billions of dollars a year,” said Milton Johnson, formerly of HCA. For instance, if the cardiologist cannot see the records from the patient’s primary-care visit, she might order the same kidney function tests the patient underwent last week, subjecting him to unnecessary testing.
A Way To Go
A 2018 survey of hospitals about their use of information technology showed room for improvement. Only 59% of hospitals reported sometimes or often using electronic information when treating patients. Just 41% said they could send, receive, find and integrate digital health information from outside sources into their own information systems.
Hospitals that seldom or never used information from outside providers cited roadblocks to doing so. About half said the information was not always available when needed. Nearly a third blamed its format, and 55% found it hard to incorporate into their own electronic health records (EHRs). When trying to send or receive information, they faced problems such as inadequate technology on either end of the exchange, different vendor platforms, trouble matching patients across systems, difficulty finding providers’ addresses and the cost.