The importance of interoperability--from a son's perspective

Earlier this summer I wrote about the importance of provider health IT adoption from my vantage point as a parent. I'd like to add on to that commentary, but this time from my perspective as a son with an aging parent.

My mother recently was released from a physical rehabilitation center following a lengthy hospital stay for a fall she suffered not too long ago. While I can't complain about the quality of care she received, I do take issue with the efficiency of that care's delivery. To be blunt, it wasn't efficient.

During her stay at both facilities--and at a follow-up doctor's visit after her release--my siblings and I had to manually update her medication list three times. I can't help but think that, had all of her facilities been using electronic health record systems that played nice with each other, it would have prevented a lot of time and confusion.

Additionally, on several occasions during the care process, doctors needed to share her records, a situation in which interoperable EHR systems would have made a world of difference. Instead, coordination processes were dragged out over days as records were sent via fax.

Again, the care was fine, it just seemed as if it occurred in slow motion.

My mother is lucky her condition wasn't worse. I can't imagine how things might have turned out had her doctors needed access to her records in a matter of minutes instead of days.

To that end, I want to reiterate a point that I made back in March after the formation of the CommonWell Health Alliance: We need national interoperability standards. Patients simply can't afford to be limited in their healthcare choices by a provider's choice of vendor.

I'm curious to hear what federal officials will have to say regarding health information exchange and interoperability during a joint webinar, which will be hosted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT this Wednesday. During the webinar, officials plan to discuss responses to a Request for Information published in the Federal Register in March that asked for input on policies officials hope can improve the "business case" for data exchange.

A business case certainly is important, as fee-for-service still rules in healthcare. But what about a patient-centered case? Hopefully thet won't be an afterthought. - Dan (@FierceHealthIT)

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