ONC touts 'significant' boost in health data exchange by hospitals

From 2008 to 2014 the healthcare industry saw major growth in the adoption of electronic medical records and the ability to exchange information.

In a nationwide survey of non-federal acute care providers, the American Hospital Association found that last year, three out of four hospitals acquired a basic EHR system, according to a brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on the survey.

That number is a huge jump from 2013, when only 27 percent of hospitals had EHRs, and an eight-fold increase since 2008, according to the survey.

In 2014, more than six in 10 hospitals exchanged data electronically, a 55 percent increase from the year before, Matthew Swain, program analyst in ONC's Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis, and Erica Galvez, ONC's interoperability and exchange portfolio manager, wrote in a Health IT Buzz blog post.

Interoperability, of course, is one of ONC's biggest priorities. In late January the agency released for public comment its shared nationwide roadmap for interoperability. The goal is to provide steps to be taken in both the private and public sectors to create an interoperable health IT ecosystem over the next 10 years.

Many health IT groups praised the roadmap, but also pushed for changes to it, such as making it better reflect gaps in the industry, as well as stressing the need for patient identifiers.

The AHA survey also broke down the states with the highest EHR adoption, which include Delaware, South Dakota and Virginia; the ones with lowest adoption were West Virginia, Hawaii and Kansas.

"While these survey results are promising, there is plenty of room for progress," Swain and Galvez said. "These results capture exchange activity among hospitals; however, these results do not assess exchange volume, whether the exchange is interoperable, and if information is available to providers at the point of care."

The issue of interoperability in the healthcare sector is even gaining attention from those on Capitol Hill. In March, lawmakers spoke about problems created by the lack of interoperability among EHRs at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The meeting echoed concerns that the HITECH Act has failed to boost efficiency, cut costs or improve care quality for patients, primarily due to a lack of interoperability, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the brief (.pdf)
- read the blog post

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