During transitions of care, prescriptions get lost or mixed up, collaboration and communication between providers is weak, and many patients fall off the grid. Although EHR systems have the capability to solve these issues in theory, in practice many hospitals are falling behind on Stage 2 meaningful use standards in this area.
In Stage 2, providers who transition or refer patients to another care setting or provider are required to provide a summary of care record for more than 50 percent of these transitions. In addition, they must provide an electronic record for 10 percent of transitions and referrals.
Although the goal seems simple, achieving it requires technical and financial challenges. The main challenge in achieving smooth transitions of care is interoperability between EHR systems. Without interoperability, technology can do little to help the problem.
The ideal health IT model is an interoperable, open system that allows the right people to access the right data across organizations, providers, and patients. But we’re a long way off from this type of system, as the following significant barriers stand in the way:
Before an EHR system can integrate with outside systems, it needs to be well-established within a healthcare organization. However, many organizations are still implementing systems and working out initial bugs and kinks in those systems. Health systems and providers are focusing resources on individual systems, and don’t have the time or room in the budget to worry about how the system will interact with others.
Restructuring these systems that organizations have already invested a lot of money in would be complex and expensive.
Not every provider, practice, and healthcare organization is at the same stage of meaningful use and EHR implementation. Some have yet to adopt health IT solutions. As the technology of some organizations evolves and advances, the systems may longer be able to interact with less sophisticated systems.
The wide range of systems and capabilities makes interoperability more challenging, and will require technology that can interact with a variety of other systems and devices. This will include providing digital information to patients and providers who have not adopted EHR systems.
Unique User Experience
To be interoperable, systems need to have a certain level of conformity. But creating high-functioning, complex systems that can work in and interact with multiple practice settings isn’t easy. Each setting and organization requires unique systems and design qualities for optimal functioning. Depending on workflow, technology available, and the needs of the organization, the user experience will need to change.
The challenge is creating one basic health IT infrastructure to allow integration between organizations which also allows a certain level of customization for each system.
Securing patient information is critical, and interoperability complicates the issue. To protect health data, many organizations have created closed platforms and systems to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing personal information. Health records are somewhat closed, and sharing them across providers and organizations using different systems is problematic.
Even with more open records and exchanges that are HIPAA compliant, organizations may be hesitant to share records because of the perceived security risk. For interoperability to work, security measures will need to be more complex to allow outside providers in while keeping hackers out.
Despite these barriers, collaboration will only become more important in the evolving healthcare landscape. To overcome these challenges, health organizations will need to work together to focus on the future of technology and improved care.
About the Author: Tim Cannon is the vice president of product management and marketing at HealthITJobs.com, a free job search resource that provides health IT professionals access to more than 1,000 industry health IT jobs at home or on the go. Connect with Tim and HealthITJobs.com on LinkedIn.