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June 5, 2024
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David Burda
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Hospitals Should Be Embarrassed by ONC’s Latest Interoperability Progress Report

If you think the lack of interoperability between healthcare providers isn’t a thing, check this out. A person I know switched primary care physicians (PCPs). She spent a day picking up her mammography test results, clinical notes and images on a CD from her former PCP and driving them over to her new PCP before she could schedule her first appointment. This was in May. May of 2024.

Her experience with the lack of interoperability between healthcare providers is reflected in the latest report on hospital interoperability from HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC.

The 13-page report — based on hospital survey data from the American Hospital Association and released late last month — said only 70% of hospitals met the agency’s four-part definition of interoperability in 2023, which is the ability to electronically handle patient health information with an EHR system outside of their own organization and do that automatically “without special effort on the part of the user.”

In short, healthcare systems must be able to send, receive, find and integrate information, and only 70% of hospitals met that definition. That’s the same percentage as 2022. Hospitals made zero progress in becoming more interoperable last year. The lack of progress comes despite the fact that expanded federal information-blocking rules took effect in October 2022.

Breaking it down by domain:

  • The ability to send slipped to 92% from 93%.
  • The ability to receive was unchanged at 87%.
  • The ability to find slipped to 84% from 85%.
  • The ability to integrate slipped to 78% from 79%.

Did I say lack of progress? We’re going in reverse.

ONC also, for the first time, dug deeper into the survey data and found something even more disturbing. Even though 70% of hospitals said they met ONC’s full definition of interoperability, that’s just some of the time. Only 43% said they were “routinely” interoperable; 27% said they were “sometimes” interoperable. So even the good guys were only good less than half of the time.

As for the person I know who had to physically transport her patient information and images from one provider to another, she’s in the majority. Per the ONC report, only 42% of hospitals routinely send patient information electronically to unaffiliated hospitals. Even fewer — just 38% — said they routinely send patient information electronically to unaffiliated ambulatory care providers.

No one wants to contribute to “patient leakage,” do they?

In a previous blog post, “Don’t Drink ONC’s Glass-Half-Full Hospital Interoperability Report,” on ONC’s last hospital interoperability report, I said, “If the interoperability percentages barely budge, it’s time to take the regulatory gloves off.”

It’s time to take the regulatory gloves off.

Thanks for reading.

About the Author

David Burda

David Burda began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes this monthly column “Burda on Healthcare,” contributes weekly blog posts, manages our weekly newsletter 4sight Friday, and hosts our weekly Roundup podcast. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers — patients — are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow.

Dave’s personnel experiences with the healthcare system both as a patient and family caregiver have shaped his point of view. It’s also been shaped by covering the industry for 40 years as a reporter and editor. He worked at Modern Healthcare for 25 years, the last 11 as editor.

Prior to Modern Healthcare, he did stints at the American Medical Record Association (now AHIMA) and the American Hospital Association. After Modern Healthcare, he wrote a monthly column for Twin Cities Business explaining healthcare trends to a business audience, and he developed and executed content marketing plans for leading healthcare corporations as the editorial director for healthcare strategies at MSP Communications.

When he’s not reading and writing about healthcare, Dave spends his time riding the trails of DuPage County, IL, on his bike, tending his vegetable garden and daydreaming about being a lobster fisherman in Maine. He lives in Wheaton, IL, with his lovely wife of 40 years and his three children, none of whom want to be journalists or lobster fishermen.

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