Survey: Lack of Interoperability Hinders Health Data Exchange

Although most physicians believe that the electronic exchange of health data can improve care quality, many cite a lack of interoperability as a major barrier to implementation, according to a new survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center, MedPage Today reports (Pittman, MedPage Today, 10/3).

The survey was developed in coordination with the American College of Physicians and Doctors Helping Doctors Transform Healthcare (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 10/3).

Survey Findings

For the survey, researchers polled 527 physicians about their perspectives on health information sharing (MedPage Today, 10/3). They found that:

  • 80% of respondents said that the electronic exchange of health information would improve care quality and coordination;
  • 69% said that health information exchange would increase practice efficiency; and
  • 57% said that electronic data sharing would reduce health care costs.

Researchers also asked the physicians about the major barriers to health information exchange and found that:

  • 71% of respondents cited a lack of EHR interoperability and data exchange infrastructure; and
  • 69% cited the cost of establishing and maintaining interfaces and exchanges (Bird, FierceHealthIT, 10/3).

In addition, the survey polled physicians about how they would like to receive electronic health data and found that:

  • 54% of respondents said that they wanted only essential patient information "pushed" to them from referring physicians, with the ability to request additional data through a query;
  • 24% said that they wanted to receive all information about a patient who was referred to them; and
  • 10% said that they only wanted to receive an alert when a patient was referred, with the ability to request patient data through a query (MedPage Today, 10/3);
  • 9% said that they wanted only essential patient information pushed to them and that they did not need the ability to request additional data through a query; and
  • 3% said that they did not know how they would like to receive electronic health data (Bipartisan Policy Center survey, 10/3).

Accompanying Report

In an accompanying report, BPC noted that the guidelines for stage 2 of the meaningful use program could help facilitate interoperability because they specify standards for data transfers. Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

The report recommends that policymakers and stakeholders accelerate electronic health information sharing by:

  • Developing a national strategy and long-term plan for standards and interoperability, as well as coordinating public- and private-sector efforts;
  • Promoting collaboration between primary care physicians, medical specialists and hospitals to define data-sharing needs that boost coordinated, value-based care;
  • Obtaining guidance from the federal government to support "query" access to patient information and transmission of imaging test results during transitions of care;
  • Creating a national strategy to accurately match patients with their EHRs;
  • Exploring ways that patients can contribute to EHR-matching efforts;
  • Launching a national forum to share best practices and lessons learned on health data sharing;
  • Establishing anti-kickback safe harbors and exceptions for payments associated with the electronic transmission of data accompanying a referral or order;
  • Creating comprehensive, clear guidance on compliance with federal privacy and security rules; and
  • Developing technical standards and guidance to support different models of patient consent (FierceHealthIT, 10/3).

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