ONC: Hospitals making strides on EHRs, interoperability, but work remains

In 2014, just 78 percent of hospitals were able to send electronic patient information to other providers, and only 56 percent were able to receive it, according to American Hospital Association data. In 2017, those number had increased substantially to 88 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

Those numbers were cited by National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Donald Rucker, MD, in a blog post, co-authored with ONC Director of Research and Evaluation Talisha Searcy, spotlighting the progress U.S. hospitals have made with regard to their IT and interoperability maturity levels.

Nearly a decade since the HITECH Act was signed into law, basic technology is table stakes. Non-federal acute care hospitals are nearly unanimous by now in having at least some certified IT installed.

What's encouraging about the new numbers, he said, is that hospitals have upped their games since the rollout of ONC's 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria, which called for significantly more advanced technical functionalities – notable, application programming interfaces – compared with the previous edition.

Today, about 93 percent acute care hospitals have upgraded to 2015 Edition technology or plan to upgrade soon, according to the AHA data highlighted by ONC.

That heartening news comes alongside the fact that "hospitals are electronically sharing more patient data than ever before," according the post – which notes that most hospitals not only now routinely share patient summary of care records electronically, but now are more able to easily find and integrate it into their own clinical workflows.

"Hospitals engaged in all four interoperability domains – electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating – increased 41 percent since 2016," write Rucker and Searcy.

Still, some areas were more problematic than others. The ability to routinely find and integrate outside data (61 percent and 53 percent, respectively) was less common than easily being able to send and receive.

Just 41 percent of hospitals said they were able to do each of them, but at least that's almost double the 23 percent who said the same back in 2014.

Despite this progress, "more can be done to address interoperability barriers and inject market competition back into healthcare," said Rucker and Searcy, adding that "engaging in all four interoperability domains is critical to ensuring that clinicians have information they need at the point of care."

They pointed ONC's ongoing efforts to implement Title IV of the 21st Century Cures Act as one example, and noting that the agency "looks forward to continuing our engagements with the health IT community on accelerating interoperability progress."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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