Is interoperability in healthcare a dream, or will payers, providers, and technology vendors finally come together to make data more available to one another?
An April 2016 survey by Black Book Market Research found that 83% of physician practices and 40% of hospitals admit that they are still in the planning and catch up stages when it comes to sending and sharing healthcare data.
Patricia B. Wise, RN, MS, MA, FHIMSS, retired Army COL., vice president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) says interoperability is the “biggest barrier” health systems are facing.
Here are six reasons it is so difficult for healthcare systems to get their information to flow more smoothly.
1. The variety of EHRs and EHR interfaces
Most health systems aren’t using electronic health records (EHRs) right out the box. Though EHRs are government certified to meet efficiency standards, they often need hundreds of customizations to make them user-friendly in the workplace. “In hospitals, CIOs are putting these systems in a test environment, and there can be hundreds of unique interfaces,” Wise says.
Customizing EHRs through unique interfaces is one of the biggest issues when it comes to interoperability because it increases the complexity required to share information.
Addressing interoperability is also not the only issue healthcare systems face when it comes to EHRs, which means it is not always the top priority. For example implementing and maintaining EHRs can be a strain financially. The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) estimates that the cost of an in-office EHR system at $33,000 and a software as a service (SaaS) system at $26,000. However, maintenance costs can reach $4,000 for in-office systems, and $8,000 for SaaS, annually. Many health IT experts say that this is a conservative estimate when considering new modules and technology, reporting, and support if something goes wrong.
Installing and optimizing an EHR system can also be a tedious process, especially when making that system function properly within a work culture, says Wise.