The concept of electronic health record (EHR) interoperability has been around for a while, but the Cures Act Final Rule has made it a buzzword among health IT departments and medical administrators. Healthcare providers have to ensure they are compliant with the new rules and avoid being labeled as information blockers. 

Providers accused of information blocking run the risk of civil penalties of as much as $1M. Of course, properly sharing electronic health information improves patient care and outcomes.

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Achieving and maintaining truly interoperable EHRs presents some enormous challenges. There are many barriers to success with healthcare interoperability. Too often, these stop providers and health IT developers from making progress that stands to benefit them in the long run.

To learn more about the five most common challenges with healthcare interoperability and how you can solve them, read on. 

What Is Healthcare Interoperability and Why Does It Matter?

As it pertains to EHRs, healthcare interoperability describes the ability of healthcare providers and various records systems to electronically share patient information. The EHR system of one provider should be able to transfer patient data to another provider’s system.

To achieve true interoperability, providers need to maintain data “liquidity.” This means that patient data is always available to stakeholders. If a practice has data that is not liquid, it could be labeled a data blocker under the Cures Act

The civil penalties for data blocking may inspire some software vendors to inch toward compliance, but there is a far more motivating upside to be had: the chance to become a leader in the industry. The EHR vendor that provides the easiest interoperability solution could easily become the most popular. That translates into real profit and accelerated growth.

EHR interoperability is important for patient care, too. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to 2017 research published in the journal Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. Open and seamless sharing of patient records reduces errors and improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Challenges of Healthcare Interoperability

The benefits of interoperability with an EHR are clear, but achieving interoperability presents five key challenges.

1. Managing inconsistent information across multiple sources

Particularly for healthcare IT vendors who service large health networks, inconsistent information across the network is a huge problem. Providers place different pieces of data in multiple, often disparate, places, and health IT departments waste countless hours searching for them.

Solution: Adopt a single unified network and interface. Once the groundwork for a uniform EHR network is laid, the process of sharing information is simple. Consider software that can automate the process of pulling data from different silos and help establish a uniform dataset.

2. Validating electronic requests for patient information 

It’s no exaggeration to say that maintaining the privacy and security of patient health records is critically important. It’s even required by law. So how do providers know when it is okay to process electronic requests for patient information? 

You need more than a simple nod of approval from your EHR provider — especially because the Cures Act Final Rule is bringing with it new training and certification requirements. Unfortunately, most providers are left to rely on the approval of their EHRs when sharing critical patient data.

Solution: You'll need a trusted party facilitating communication who has the time and expertise to verify that data requests are appropriate and secure. Software like Healthjump’s Data Management Platform verifies data requests and verifies accuracy through a process leveraging automation and human inspection.

3. Overcoming organizational resistance to sharing data

Certain actors in the healthcare industry have a vested interest in not sharing data with other providers. For example, hospital systems compete for patients with urgent care clinics. When a request for patient data comes from an urgent care clinic to a hospital’s EHR system, the motivation to share the data is slim at best. But the law calls for health data to be available and accessible across organizational boundaries and to patients themselves.

Solution: Remove the question of whether to make data available. Instead of choosing when to push data out into the network, make it completely accessible to the right entities all the time. This requires some buy-in across the healthcare network, but the Cures Act’s data blocking provisions are going to provide the extra push some practices and facilities will need.

4. The high cost of hiring specialists to manage interoperability

Achieving interoperable EHRs is a lot of work. In most healthcare settings, no single person has the time — much less the qualifications — to keep up with this daily task. But hiring someone who is qualified to maintain EHR interoperability is expensive, especially for smaller organizations.

Solution: Don’t hire a person. Instead, let a specialized software platform maintain EHR interoperability for you. The monthly cost of a base platform license from Healthjump, for instance, is a fraction of the cost you'd pay in salary, benefits, or contracting fees for a dedicated specialist.

5. Making data readily available is now a requirement 

If your data is not as readily available as is called for in the Cures Act, you could be reported as a data blocker and fined. EHRs are a first-line solution, but the Cures Act is thrusting the industry into uncharted waters. An outdated EHR certification is not enough to give peace of mind that you are keeping up with the new requirements of the Cures Act Final Rule.

Solution: Export your data to a single place in a uniform manner. Create an online portal that allows access to that central place where the data is stored. That way, patient data is available to those who need it at all times.

Interoperability without changing the systems or software that you have?

Technically speaking, EHR interoperability is making one system work with another. Across the entire health system, this creates an infinitely complex and confusing web of EHR systems. These will inevitably have problems and inefficiencies. What if you could keep all of the systems you already have and get them to share data without requiring developers?

This is what Healthjump provides — a single, uniform system for the storage and movement of clinical data between applications and EHRs. Using a single interoperability platform, Healthjump enables the consolidation of health data across EHR systems in days (not months), simplifies data migrations, and unlocks the data needed for all manner of reports and applications. Healthjump provides a secure, low-cost platform that addresses the challenges of EHR interoperability and allows you to do a lot more than just be compliant.

Click below to learn more about Healthjump’s EHR interoperability solution and what it can do for you.

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