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Hospital Associations Call for Industry-Wide Effort to Accelerate Interoperability

Seven leading hospital associations, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), are calling for an industry-wide effort to improve data sharing. The new report seeks to enlist and expand public and private stakeholder support to accelerate interoperability and help remove the barriers to data sharing.

In order to achieve the full potential of the nation’s healthcare system, health data must flow freely. Only then will it be possible to provide the best possible care to patients, properly engage people in their health, improve public health, and ensure new models of healthcare succeed.

Effective sharing of patient data strengthens care coordination, improves safety and quality, empowers patients and their families, increases efficiency, reduces healthcare costs, and supports the accurate tracking of diseases and the creation of robust public health registries.

The report explains that great progress is being made to improve interoperability of health IT systems and ensure that patients data can be accessed regardless of location or system. 93% of hospitals now allow patients to access their health records online, 87% allow health records to be downloaded by patients, 88% of hospitals send patient records to ambulatory care providers outside their system, and 84% of hospitals allow caregivers to access information on behalf of patients.

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Interoperability improvements have required tremendous effort and have come at a significant cost. Progress has been made but hospitals still face substantial barriers that are preventing efficient data sharing. Health IT tools are often expensive, many do not easily support information sharing, and the use of different health IT and EHR systems make it difficult to efficiently share information.

It is now common for healthcare to be delivered across multiple settings and locations. Records generated in doctor’s offices, hospitals, laboratories, medical devices, and in non-clinical settings should all be accessible and capable of being transferred quickly, efficiently, and accurately to create a full patient record that can be accessed by patients and their healthcare providers.

The report notes that diplomats at the United Nations speak a wide variety of languages but, through translators, are able to communicate efficiently and effectively. Mobile phones can communicate with other devices, regardless of make, model, or operating system. Healthcare needs to operate in a similar way.

A final push is required to get interoperability where it needs to be. The challenges that need to be overcome are detailed in the report along with an agenda detailing the pathway to full interoperability.

In order to achieve true interoperability, all industry stakeholders need to collaborate and work toward the common goal. The roles that different stakeholders must play are detailed in the report.

The report – Sharing data, Saving Lives: The Hospital Agenda for Interoperability – can be downloaded on this link.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.