Lack of standardized EHR interface delaying interoperability

The lack of a standardized application programming interface (API) for electronic health records is hampering the growth of information networks, according to a recent poll conducted by health IT strategy and research firm Gantry Group, which recently surveyed health plans and EHR vendors on the topic.

Gantry found that 96 percent of health plans and 88 percent of vendors surveyed said that a standard API is needed to support data exchange among EHR systems. Without a single standard method for EHRs to use to communicate, the industry won't move forward with large-scale data exchange, despite the government's pumping of resources into HIT.

"Payors and vendors are frustrated. They can't support everyone. So they're waiting to see which EHR solutions will shake out and remain," Dawna Paton, Gantry's managing partner tells FierceEMR.

Paton likens the situation to the old days of personal computers before Microsoft. "Wang, IBM and Apple all had their own operating systems," she says. "Microsoft ended up becoming the de facto standard."

Payors, in particular, are stymied by the lack of interoperability because it hinders their ability to conduct data analysis and predictive modeling, Paton says. Vendors want standardization, but they have APIs for their own suites of products, so they're less likely to press for a quick resolution.

Until the industry and/or the government agrees to one API standard, providers will have to make do with creating private mini-networks that exchange EHR data to demonstrate they can meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, an expected requirement, Paton says. The private networks, she adds, will enable providers to earn their incentive payments, but do nothing to promote the National Health Information Network.

"If you want national exchanges, and networks are private, [true data exchange] won't happen," Paton warns.

To learn more:
- read the announcement (.pdf)
- check out Gantry's poll (.pdf)