Fewer than 4 in 10 health systems can successfully share data with other hospitals, survey finds

Fewer than 4 in 10 health systems can successfully share data with other health systems and these ongoing interoperability challenges are limiting strategic efforts to improve workflow, improve population health and reduce the cost of care.

Only 69% of technology executives at U.S. hospitals and health systems reported that they are effective at sharing data within their own organizations, according to a survey from the Center for Connected Medicine.

Health systems continue to face challenges sharing data with payers and patients—with about 58% of technology and business leaders reporting that their organizations are highly successful in these efforts. About half said their health systems can successfully share data with pharmaceutical organizations. 

The survey results highlight the current state of data sharing among hospitals as federal policymakers push to improve interoperability with several proposed interoperability rules. Those rules aim to open up access to health data through the use of open application programming interfaces to link heath data to smartphone apps and other digital tools.

CCM's survey examined how well health care organizations are prepared to advance interoperability and how those challenges are affecting organizational priorities. 

Most health systems are aligning their technology plans with interoperability objectives, the survey found. Most health systems (60%) are taking the organizational step to switch to a single, integrated electronic health record system, according to the survey of IT, informatics, business and clinical leaders.

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Other organizational efforts including hiring new talent (44%), partnering with interoperability technology vendors (40%), upskilling the analytics skillset of existing employees (39%) and leveraging health information exchanges (38%). Only 23% of organizations are investing in artificial intelligence or machine learning to address interoperability challenges. 

The lack of interoperability is making it difficult for health systems to pursue key strategic goals, including enabling patient-facing apps, tapping into unstructured data and reducing the cost of care. In fact, only 27% of respondents said their organizations’ work to improve interoperability had allowed them to reduce the cost of care, while 60% said they were highly effective at meeting the regulatory and compliance requirements posed by interoperability.  

Four in 10 technology leaders said interoperability challenges limit their organization's effort to improve workflow and enable new models of care.

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The most crucial elements needed to drive interoperability in health care, according to survey respondents, are commitment by senior leadership, financial incentives or penalties that encourage organizations to share data with one another and with individual patients and advances in tools and technologies. 

“This survey supports other research we have conducted at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, which shows that health care is making strides advancing interoperability. However, this research also suggests providers feel most successful at sharing data within their own health systems, and less often report success sharing medical data with payers, patients or other health systems and partners,” said Janet King, senior director of market insights at HIMSS Media, which conducted the research for the CCM in June.