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Hospital groups urge faster progress toward data interoperability


Seven hospital associations on Tuesday expressed impatience with the pace of progress toward full healthcare data interoperability, urging stakeholders to unite in working to improve the ability to securely share patient information.

In a report called Sharing Data, Saving Lives, the American Hospital Association and six other hospital groups said the current “patchwork system” lacks universally agreed-upon ways of sharing and using information. That hampers the transfer of patient data between different, proprietary health record systems.

Solutions to technical and data incompatibilities between data sharing platforms created by different vendors often are costly and ineffective, don’t offer clinically useful information and are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, the report said.

“Quality care depends on having the right information at the right time, so our patients’ records need to be available in the hospital or wherever our patients receive care,” Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, one of the report’s sponsors, said in a written statement.

Obstacles to achieving interoperability include:

  • Uneven adoption of technology across care settings, with many clinics, post-acute facilities and behavioral health providers unable to receive or send data.
  • Shifting regulatory requirements and unclear timetables.
  • Health plans that do not or cannot share claims data.
  • Vendor protocols that fail to transfer full data sets.

The hospital groups recommended that hospitals use their buying power to drive vendors toward compatibility. Electronic health record vendors and other IT companies should avoid pricing models that create a price for information sharing. Insurers should commit to sharing claims data with patients and providers, using standard approaches.

Medical device makers should expand the “plug and play” approach in their products. And the government should support standards development and consistent use of standards.

The report highlighted a number of hospitals and groups that have launched effective data-sharing initiatives. For instance, Nemaha County Hospital in Nebraska has cut readmissions by sharing continuity of care information with all local providers.

The Tennessee Hospital Association started a network that has put 88% of the state’s hospitals in touch with each other, exchanging real-time admission, discharge, and transfer alerts that help providers track a patient’s progress through the system.

Hospitals and health systems have found ways to exchange patient information in a secure and timely way, the report said.

“But achieving this consistently on a national scale remains an unmet goal,” it concluded. “As national hospital associations, we are united in our conviction that it is time to finish the job and grant all patients the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their healthcare decisions are based on the best and most complete information possible.”