The most recent statistics about physician interoperability are fairly encouraging. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in 2013, 48% of physicians had at least a basic EHR, 26% more than when HITECH went into effect in 2009.
Just under 70% of physicians can view lab results electronically, and 42% can offer patients a way to view online, download, or transmit information from their medical record. E-prescribing is, not surprisingly, on the rise, with 57% of new and renewal prescriptions sent electronically last year.
Nevertheless, we’ve got a long way to go to achieve the type of interoperability that will transform healthcare. One of the biggest gaps is between hospitals and post-acute/long-term care. There’s also an issue with electronic notifications of patients entering the emergency department. Although 41% of hospitals provide electronic notification to a patient’s PCP when the patient enters the ED, only 24% provide it outside their system. Even more disappointing is the fact that only 14% of physicians shared patient information with any provider outside their organization.
But exactly how interoperable does your practice need to be? The answer is “very”—for a number of reasons.
- Any practice without an EHR will soon be woefully behind the times and not eligible for Meaningful Use Stage 1 incentives.
- Practices not providing their patients with access to their medical records (in other words, a patient portal) will not be able to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 2.
- Significant improvements in patient care depend heavily on systems that require interoperability, such as:
- Electronic ordering of lab tests
- Electronic receipt of test results
- Electronic prescriptions
- Electronic medication lists accessible by patients to improve accuracy
- Electronic queries for patient health information from other providers
Providers should also take note of the fact that Dr. Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health information technology, says interoperability will be the top priority for her office in 2014. It’s one of the essential elements needed to advance the US’s triple aim of improving care, reducing per-capital costs of care, and improving overall population health, she says.
Finally, there’s a compelling argument for interoperability that’s not related to government programs or nationwide statistics—common sense. Few in healthcare can deny the logic behind better communication through tying together the electronic systems holding patient data. As Nick Valeriani, CEO of West Health, put it earlier this year at the Fourth Annual Health Care Innovation Day in Washington, DC, “Is this care good enough for your mother? If the answer is ‘no,’—and it is—then there is a lot of work to be done.”
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