ONC: Physicians are still struggling with interoperability

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While doctors’ rates of querying or finding patient health information from outside sources has increased by about half, they have not made progress in sending and receiving data electronically.

That’s the finding of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT based on nationally representative surveys of office-based doctors conducted in 2015 and 2017.

The good news is that physicians’ rates of electronically finding or querying data from outside sources increased by 50 percent between those years, according to ONC. However, the agency also reported that the rates of engaging in other domains of interoperability did not change during this period.

“Physicians’ engagement in electronically sending, receiving and integrating information received from outside sources did not change between 2015 and 2017,” states ONC’s data brief. “In both 2015 and 2017, about only one in 10 physicians engaged in all four domains of interoperability.”

Also See: CMS, ONC proposed rules press industry to improve interoperability

Nonetheless, ONC also revealed that physicians who used certified electronic health records and participated in value-based payment models had higher rates of engaging in each of the four domains of interoperability versus their counterparts.

“Six times as many physicians with certified EHRs electronically sent patient health information to outside providers compared to those who did not have a certified EHR,” states the data brief. “Two times as many physicians who participated in value-based payment electronically sent and received patient health information with outside providers compared to those who did not participate.”

ONC concluded that progress is needed to ensure that all physicians are able to use interoperable health IT systems. Still, the agency was optimistic about the fact that the data “indicate the expanded use of advanced certified EHR technology should improve physicians’ ability to engage in interoperability and access information they need at the point of care.”

At the same time, the agency made the case that “greater participation in initiatives such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or alternative payment models (APMs) should improve interoperability” given that these programs “incentivize the electronic sharing of health information across providers and promote the use of the 2015 Edition certified EHR technology.”

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