The verdict is clear: Interoperability progress has been disappointing. Almost without exception, healthcare experts agree that the industry has fallen far short in its efforts to foster meaningful reform.

Consider these assessments in recent articles:

“We’ve spent half a million dollars on an electronic health record system about three years ago, and I’m faxing all day long. I can’t send anything electronically over it,” said Dr. William L. Rich III, a member of a nine-person ophthalmology practice in Northern Virginia. New York Times

“While most providers have installed some kind of electronic record system, two recent studies have found that fewer than half of the nation’s hospitals can transmit a patient care document, while only 14 percent of physicians can exchange patient data with outside hospitals or other providers.” New York Times

In its annual report to Congress, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) wrote, “Electronic health information is not yet sufficiently standardized to allow seamless interoperability, as it is still inconsistently expressed through technical and medical vocabulary, structure, and format, thereby limiting the potential uses of the information to improve health and care.” Healthcare IT News

A recent study of 62 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) found that all of them experience at least some trouble combining data from different sources, and 88 percent said these integration obstacles are “significant.” Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review

One theme emerges from articles like these: Health care is making progress with adopting technology, but we’re frustrated that technology is not reaching its fullest potential.

Even competitor EHRs need to be interoperable

Solutions need to be able to share data with each other, even if they are from competing vendors or use different vocabularies, formats and semantics. Until clinicians can share information among disparate systems, the value that can be derived from any of them is severely compromised.

Over the past few years, the industry agrees on three main strategies that can help improve patient and population health, while controlling the spiraling cost of health care:

1. Coordinate care – to better manage conditions, close gaps and reduce duplicative services across care settings.

2. Engage patients – to improve compliance with treatment and wellness plans, and encourage more regular communication with clinicians.

3. Analyze data – to identify at-risk patients, enhance disease management, and improve both clinical and operational performance.

None of these foundational strategies will be successful if systems containing critical information are not interoperable. If healthcare providers and executives can only see a portion of the information available, results will continue to be suboptimal.

We need more solutions that overcome the interoperability barrier, such as Allscripts dbMotion™ Solution. Its capabilities are the ones that will help healthcare organizations advance.

Our industry has achieved a great deal over the past decade or two, thanks to the increased sophistication and functionality of electronic health records (EHRs) and other clinical systems. Now it’s time to take another leap forward, achieving the level of interoperability that will not only reform, but also transform, health care.

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About the author

Joel Diamond, MD, serves as Chief Medical Officer for Allscripts dbMotion Solution. Previously, he held positions as Chief Medical Information Officer and Chairman of the Physician Advisory Board at UPMC/St. Margaret Memorial Hospital, where he helped achieve 100% adoption of CPOE. Dr. Diamond graduated from medical school at the State University of New York, Health Science Center at Syracuse in 1988, and completed his residency in Family Medicine at UPMC/St. Margaret Memorial Hospital in 1991. In addition to his position with Allscripts, Dr. Diamond is an active partner at Handelsman Family Practice in Pittsburgh, PA.

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