Silos that limit patient record access are hurting care, researchers say

Limited access to patients’ health information is having multiple negative effects on care delivery, according to a newly released report.

A recent paper examines how keeping information locked up is holding back the healthcare industry. The report was published in BMC Health Services Research and written by Anabel Castillo, an engineering and public policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, and professors Marvin Sirbu and Alexander Davis.

Healthcare organizations have gone to great lengths to keep medical records private but with most hospitals now using electronic health records, doctors are appreciating how the records can be used to improve care, according to the researchers.

The silos holding records have prevented patients’ new providers from having an accurate record of the medical history, which can cause errors in the treatment process, even as EHRs can make sharing records easier.

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Interoperability is the answer, Castillo says. “Without interoperable systems, the full potential benefits of adopting electronic health records cannot be achieved,” she contends. “Patient-centered treatment requires collaboration, coordination and accountability. This can only be accomplished when medical information is available for exchange.”

The research team also examined how the choice of an EHR vendor can affect the sharing of patient data.

“Our findings show that the likelihood of a hospital exchanging clinical summaries with hospitals outside its health system increases as the percentage of hospitals with the same EHR vendor in the region increases,” researchers note. “Hospitals are far more likely to share if they are all using the same vendor because of the ease in which the hospital systems can communicate with each other, versus the difficulty of one system communicating with another.”

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Still, there are regulations that govern how and why hospitals determine a vendor. The HITECH Act, for instance, continues to provide financial incentives to providers to support data exchange through EHRs and authors hint of new regulations that could have a large impact on making data exchanges more efficient.

“Identifying the barriers for information exchange is a necessary step to achieve the goals of the HITECH Act in creating a more efficient and effective healthcare system,” according to the authors.

The complete research paper is available here.

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