Hospital groups set forth health IT interoperability agenda

Seven national hospital associations are joining to help the healthcare industry to achieve the promise of fully interoperable health information.

While progress is being made in the sharing of health data, the hospital groups contend that the current state of interoperability is still a “patchwork system” that is “working well in some but not all settings” and requires healthcare stakeholder support to succeed nationwide.

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Richard Pollack

“The hospital field has made good headway, but it’s time to complete the job,” says Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “We are united in calling for a truly interoperable system that allows all providers and patients to benefit from shared health records and data, leading to fully informed care decisions.”

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“We are inching closer to, but still short of, the ideal of seamless interoperability,” states a new report from America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Children’s Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals and the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare.

“We currently lack universally agreed upon ways of sharing and using information—‘rules-of-the-road’ that make possible the uncorrupted transfer of patient data between differing (and often proprietary) health record systems,” according to the hospital coalition. “Consistency is paramount. Just as today’s mobile phones can connect with each other regardless of the brand, model or wireless carrier.”

The hospital associations are calling on all public and private stakeholders to “unite and ramp up our ability to securely share patient health information, regardless of where it originates.”

Specifically, the groups have developed an agenda that includes six key elements that they say are the “surest pathways” to full interoperability.

  • Security and privacy—Stakeholders must be able to trust that shared data is accurate, secure and used in accordance with best practices and patient expectations. Manufacturers must embed security and privacy requirements into every layer of the infrastructure.
  • Efficient, usable solutions—Data must be available where and when it is needed, and in a useful format. Systems supporting data exchange also must support accurate patient matching.
  • Cost effective, enhanced infrastructure—The infrastructure to connect information sharing networks must be secure, cost-effective, accessible and updated over time. It will require consistent use of standards, semantics and a common set of “rules of the road” for exchange.
  • Standards that work—Connected systems require improved, as well as new, standards used consistently to minimize proprietary solutions and gatekeeping.
  • Connecting beyond electronic health records—To improve health and care, interoperable systems must expand the reach of information sharing to support population health, address social determinants of health and facilitate remote monitoring and patient-generated data.
  • Shared best practices—Information sharing is happening in pockets but needs to be expanded. All stakeholders should share best practices to build on what works.

“Quality care depends on having the right information at the right time, so our patient’s records need to be available in the hospital or wherever our patients receive care,” says Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals. “Hospitals are joining together to support improving interoperability because it is the key to assuring the best for our patients.”

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