Interoperability still a major challenge for healthcare organizations
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Interoperability still a major challenge for healthcare organizations

Electronic health records stand to revolutionize the quality of care in hospitals around the country. As these digitized systems are being implemented with greater frequency, many organizations are discovering that not only do patients benefit from more accurate, efficient care, but the institutions themselves are improving. While it does require an upfront investment to deploy electronic health records, over time, practices are likely to save time, money and streamline internal operations significantly. 

However, even with the deadline to have electronic health records in place fast-approaching in the United States, some experts believe these solutions are still in need of numerous improvements. One of the greatest and most persistent challenges is interoperability, which would allow physicians across different clinics to be able to access a single patient's information as necessary. Achieving this would mean that, in cases where a patient must be referred to a specialist or has an emergency where he or she cannot make it to his or her normal doctor, the professionals making decisions on treatments will have everything they need to ensure the best outcomes.

Advancements needed
InformationWeek reported that according to Epic CEO and founder Judy Faulkner, the current lack of interoperability is not for lack of desire. The barriers are quite diverse, with one of those being that patients are often apprehensive about the idea of sharing data with people they may not know. Faulkner noted that patients tend to want to share information with some professionals and not with others, which would make it difficult to develop a single, universal system that bridges that gap between patients' and doctors' preferences.

Additionally, Faulkner explained that training is still creating a challenge for many medical organizations. She explained that while data exchange is commonplace among professionals who work in the emergency room, it is not encountered as frequently in other areas of the practice. Efficiency can suffer when physicians don't remember how to properly exchange records, even resulting in errors.

SearchHealthIT emphasized that these issues may also have a ripple effect on other emerging areas of healthcare IT. For example, telemedicine services are struggling to overcome the challenge presented by siloed information in the medical industry. 

"EHRs don't talk to each other, interoperability's still a major challenge," one executive, who wished to remain anonymous, told the source. "If they're not going to talk to each other, they're not going to talk to telemedicine. If that's the case right now, we'll have to use them best as possible. But telemedicine has to be separate from the EHRs and move forward."

Support makes a difference
In order for healthcare organizations to achieve greater interoperability, advances still need to be made in the realm of healthcare IT. In the mean time, for hospitals and other medical practices to get the most out of their solutions, working with high-quality vendors in the IT planning process can help smooth the transition from paper to electronic recordkeeping. By ensuring this move is made effectively, medical leaders can improve outcomes for patients and their institutions alike.