Small, urban hospitals fall behind on electronic data exchange

While more hospitals are exchanging information via both electronic and non-electronic means, small and rural hospitals are still fighting to catch up, according to a new brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

In 2015, about 90 percent of medium and large hospitals were able to send care records through electronic and non-electronic means, and 71 percent were able to receive records those ways. 

But when it comes to smaller, urban organizations, only 80 percent were able to send information electronically and non-electronically, and just 58 percent could receive data through both mediums. For critical access hospitals, those numbers were lower, at 78 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Being able to send information electronically is becoming more vital for healthcare organizations as use of electronic records becomes ubiquitous in the industry and as the push for true interoperability continues

“Rural hospitals had approximately half the rate of engaging in all four domains of interoperability--electronically finding, sending, receiving and integrating--compared to suburban and urban hospitals,” Vindell Washington, M.D., ONC’s principal deputy national coordinator, writes in a blog post about the brief.

He adds that the industry must conduct more analysis to understand why those disparities exist, but says that ONC is “committed to ensuring that all hospitals have secure access to health information when and where it is needed.”

The brief did note, however, that overall rates of sending and receiving summary-of-care records between hospitals and other providers grew between 2014 and 2015, and that the number of hospitals that only sent and received information through non-electronic significantly declined.

In briefs released in May by the ONC, the agency also found that electronic health record adoption and data sharing among U.S. hospitals had increased significantly. Small, rural and critical access hospitals also increased their adoption of basic EHRs. However, again ONC noted that their adoption still lagged behind other hospitals. 

To learn more:
- here's the brief
- read the blog post