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In HIT, Interoperability Concerns Still Exist

February 16, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a survey commissioned by the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based analytic research firm Optum Institute for Sustainable Health (the Optum Institute), healthcare CIOs are concerned about growing costs and burdens related to lack of interoperability between systems, and incomplete data available through health information exchanges

The survey of 301 U.S. hospital CIOs, conducted by Harris Interactive, charted overall progress in digitizing medical care, current health information technology (HIT) capabilities, plans for HIT expansion, stage of "meaningful use" progress, value of interoperability, and benefits and challenges associated with technology use. The biggest concerns were surrounding interoperability.

Among those participating in an HIE, data is on average accessible for only 60 percent of patients through the HIE. Two-thirds of respondents found data accuracy/completeness to represent the biggest business and technical issue they faced in using HIE capabilities, followed by inaccessible proprietary systems and high costs of interoperability.

There were also concerns with gaps in care information. Nearly two-thirds of hospitals said they own their own health information exchange (HIE), but information such as hospital discharge information, computerized prescriptions, physician clinical notes, and lists of patient allergies and medications, is available only about half the time. In addition, compliance was an issue. For those that have an EMR system, the largest barriers to complying with meaningful use requirements include cost (57 percent), sufficient time (55 percent), and legacy system incompatibility (34 percent).

In positive news, nearly nine out of 10 hospitals surveyed (87 percent) now have EMR systems in place -- up significantly since 2011, when the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reported that only slightly more than half of CIOs had a fully operational electronic health record in at least one facility in their organization. Seventy percent of CIOs report their systems have attested to meaningful use 1 criteria (MU1) and 75 percent anticipated being able to meet expected meaningful use 2 (MU2) criteria by 2014.

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