Overcoming barriers to health information exchange is critical to improving the U.S. health care system, according to a viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, CMIO reports.
The viewpoint was written by Julia Adler Milstein of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Ashish Jha of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The authors wrote, "The vision of complete patient information available across care delivery settings is compelling and central to a high-functioning health care system," but "the vision is deceptively simple: there are enormous challenges to enabling clinical data to flow across organizations."
Challenges to Sharing Data
The authors outlined five major barriers hindering the widespread exchange of electronic health data, which are:
- Data privacy and security concerns;
- Physicians' and hospitals' concerns that greater data sharing might spur patients to seek care at rival institutions;
- Low rates of physicians demanding electronic access to patient data or using such information when it is available;
- The use of point-to-point exchange tools, which could hinder the use of interoperability tools that allow for more structured data exchange; and
- The fact that some physicians and health care organizations are excluded from the meaningful use program.
Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
To achieve more robust health data exchange, the authors recommended that policymakers:
- Enact policies that encourage health care providers who are excluded from the meaningful use program to adopt electronic health records and participate in health data exchange;
- Establish incentives for all health care providers to make certain types of health data available for exchange in a structured format; and
- Provide more details and guidance on the consequences of health data breaches (Byers, CMIO, 4/25).