While health information exchange among U.S. non-federal acute care hospitals grew in 2014, only 23 percent of hospitals nationwide were able to find, send, receive and use data electronically to/from sources outside their hospital system.

That’s one takeaway from a nationwide American Hospital Association survey released by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. In addition, only 41 percent of surveyed hospitals last year reported having necessary clinical information available electronically from outside providers or sources when treating a patient that was seen by another provider or care setting.

“About four in 10 hospitals have data from outside sources at the point of care,” Vaishali Patel, a senior ONC advisor, told Tuesday’s meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee. Still, Patel emphasized that hospitals conducting all four types of interoperable exchange activity—finding, sending, receiving and using electronic data—have significantly higher rates of information electronically available at the point of care from outside sources/settings.

Nearly all hospitals “have the infrastructure to enable exchange,” she added, reporting that nearly 97 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals have a certified electronic health record system according to the AHA survey.

Patel revealed that about three-quarters of acute care hospitals in 2014 reported that they electronically exchanged laboratory results, radiology reports, clinical care summaries, or medication lists with outside ambulatory care providers or hospitals. However, she informed the committee that when it comes to hospital engagement in the different types of health information exchange activities “we find a bit more variability exists.”

Also See: HIE Among Hospitals Grows, Still Needs Improvement

About three-quarters of acute care hospitals are sending summary of care records electronically and about half (56 percent) receive summary of care records electronically, but Patel disclosed that only 40 percent of hospitals have the ability to use/integrate summary of care records into their EHRs without manual entry.

At the same time, nearly half of hospitals reported that their providers engage in electronically finding or querying health information from outside their organization or hospital system. Yet, in those cases, Patel noted that “find” is only interoperable exchange activity not specific to summary of care records.

The AHA survey identified a number of barriers to interoperability among hospitals. Limited capability of exchange partners to receive information electronically was the top technical barrier due to a lack of an EHR or other system to receive data (59 percent). The most common operational barrier reported by hospitals (30 percent) was cumbersome workflow to send information from EHR systems. And, a quarter of surveyed hospitals cited additional costs to exchange with outside providers/settings as the top financial barrier.

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