Electronically exchanging health information with outside providers is critical to ensuring access to patient records at the point of care in hospital settings. However, less than 10 percent of hospitals use only electronic means of exchanging summary of care records with outside sources.

That’s the finding of a newly released Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT analysis of 2014 data from a nationwide survey of non-federal acute care hospitals conducted by the American Hospital Association.

ONC’s data brief reveals that last year a majority of hospitals used a combination of electronic and non-electronic means to send (77 percent) and receive (67 percent) summary of care records to/from outside sources. And, a quarter (26 percent) of hospitals received summary of care records in non-electronic format only (e.g., mail, fax or eFax).

“Despite the potential benefits of electronic exchange, a majority of hospitals used a mixture of paper and electronic methods to exchange information,” states the ONC data brief. “This might be due to exchange partners’ limited capability to receive information, which was considered by hospitals to be the top barrier to interoperability.”

In addition, while most hospitals sent summary of care records, less than half received these data and only 4 in 10 hospitals reported they can integrate information from patient summary of care records into their EHRs, which according to ONC Interoperability and Exchange Portfolio Manager Erica Galvez “poses challenges to clinical workflow and information usability.”

Also See: HIE among Hospitals Increasing, Further Progress Needed

ONC notes in its analysis that long-term care and behavioral health care providers, in particular, have limited capabilities to electronically exchange data with outside providers.

“Hospitals’ rates of both sending and receiving patient summary of care records to and from long-term care and behavioral health care providers were considerably lower than electronic exchange with outside hospitals and ambulatory care providers,” according to the data brief.

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