Hospital EHR adoption grows, but other care settings still lack ability to receive data

While exchange of data between hospitals and outside providers is increasing, the industry still faces many barriers when it comes to interoperability.

Last year, three out of four hospitals acquired a basic electronic health record system, according to analysis of a study conducted by the American Hospital Association in 2014.

In addition, about 40 percent of hospitals can access clinical information electronically from outside providers or sources, though only 25 percent engaged in the four activities related to interoperable exchange--find, send receive and use--according to a new data brief on the report.

The data brief, from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, while addressing the success of electronic health record adoption by non-federal acute care hospitals, also highlights the challenges that remain for interoperability of those systems.

Some of the barriers outlined in the brief include:

  • 59 percent of care settings outside hospitals lack an EHR or system to receive data
  • 58 percent of other care settings that have an EHR have a system that lacks the capacity to receive data
  • 24 percent find it difficult to match or ID patients
  • 30 percent say the workflow to send data is cumbersome
  • 25 percent cite additional costs to send information as an issue

The results illustrate that "important work remains to ensure that the necessary clinical information is available at the point of care in hospital settings." Erica Galvez, Interoperability and Exchange Portfolio Manager at ONC, writes in a post at ONC's Health IT Buzz blog.

"ONC will continue reporting on interoperable exchange among hospitals to understand where the nation is making progress, and identify where gaps and barriers remain," Galvez writes. "This will help inform the evolution of the roadmap to craft policies and strategies to improve interoperable exchange."

Interoperability has become a thorn in the ONC's side as the agency grapples with trying to find ways to solve data exchange problems. In fact, National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo said Wednesday that a common set of standards for the exchange of electronic health information likely could have improved the current state of interoperability.

"We're moving toward that with the industry, but I think what that's created is a complexity and aggregation of data. ... In hindsight, maybe some more standardization, or a lot more," was necessary, she said at the eHealth Initiative's iThrive Innovation Challenge in the District of Columbia.

To learn more:
- here's the data brief (.pdf)
- read the Health IT Buzz post