EHR Interoperability

What does “interoperability” mean?  ” The ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged accurately, securely, and verifiable, when and where needed.”

Electronic Healthcare Records are not a one size fits all. With the variety of healthcare facilities, it is a given that each EHR option is not created equally. EHR interoperability is a work in progress. With that being said, the goal is for them all to be able to communicate with each other, making healthcare for the patient and the providers much more efficient, safe and transitional. Exchange of documents between EHR’s is also a big part of meaningful use stage 2. Several states have started to mandate EHR Interoperability.

Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, Athenahealth, Greenway and RelayHealth, a McKesson subsidiary make up about 40% of the EHR market. These vendors announced the launch of CommonWell Health Alliance at a recent conference (HIMSS). Allscripts signed on last minute, while EPIC has yet to jump on board. The goal of the alliance is to make sharing data a possibility and to enable  interoperability.

EHR/HIE Interoperability Work Group  includes 19 EHR suppliers, as well as  18 vendors of health information exchange software. Similar concept as CommonWell Health Alliance, only smaller EHR systems. Their goal is to have interfaces between EHRs and HIEs be compatible.

What are the advantages to EHR interoperability? There is no wait time for transferring charts between specialties, up-to-date information will be easily accessible.  Avoiding keying information in manually or scanning it in will save valuable time and money. Patient care and safety will greatly increase with EHR interoperability.

Why are there so many challenges with EHR interoperability?  Technical barriers, time and the expense of setting up interfaces are the major  challenges.

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