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March 13, 2020
David Burda
Economics Policy System Dynamics

The Sorry State of Hospital Interoperability

Likely overshadowed by anticipation of HHS’ final information-blocking rules, which came out earlier this week, HHS’ latest annual report on hospital interoperability didn’t get much attention. But, if you read the report, you’ll know why patients desperately needed the new rules to come out as soon as possible.

HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released the 20-page report earlier this month, and you can download it here. The report is based on data that the ONC collects from the American Hospital Association, which surveys U.S. hospitals on their adoption and use of health IT.

Less than half of all hospitals in 2018 regularly engaged in all four domains of interoperability, the ONC report said. That’s right. After all these years, all the money, all the technological advancements, all the vows to put patients first, just 46 percent of U.S. hospitals sent, received, found and integrated patient health information with providers outside of their own system. 

That’s double the percentage from 2014, when only 23 percent of hospitals were fully interoperable with their EHR systems. But, that’s up only five percentage points from 2017, when the ONC said that figure was 41 percent. In-other-words, the drive to interoperability was losing steam.

So what’s the problem?

The No. 1 barrier to electronically exchanging patient health information with other providers was the technical challenge related to sharing data across different vendor EHR platforms, cited by 78 percent of the hospitals surveyed by the AHA. First, blame the vendors.

The second most frequently cited barrier to interoperability was more interesting. Sixty-five percent of the hospitals surveyed agreed with the statement: “There are providers whom we share patients with that don’t typically exchange patient data with us.” You’re taking our patients, but you’re not giving us your data? We’re not going to play with you. Second, blame other providers.

This is why HHS had to step in. Vendors are not going to build interoperable EHR systems that hospitals never wanted in the first place. It’s not about patients as customers. It’s about patients as commodities. Control the commodity, control the money.

Now, vendors and providers have to give up that control. And that’s a good thing for patients.

To learn more on this topic, please read “Healthcare’s Epic Problem & the Audacity of Liberating Patient Data on 4sighthealth.com. 

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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