A new survey suggests that despite spending countless dollars and people-hours on the problem, hospitals and health systems are still struggling with data sharing. Of course, this is an issue worth discussing at any point, but especially noteworthy given that new regulations from CMS and ONC are soon to take effect.
The survey, which was conducted by the Center for Connected Medicine, reached out to 100 IT and business professionals at U.S. hospitals. The questions looked at how healthcare organizations are doing in their ongoing interoperability efforts and how this is affecting their priorities. The CCM is operated jointly by GE Healthcare, Nokia and UPMC.
When asked about their existing efforts, 56% of respondents strongly agreed that their organization was aligning its technology roadmap and spending plans with interoperability initiatives, 52% that it was staying up-to-date on changing interoperability regulations, 55% that it was adequately addressing policies and procedures related to data exchange and 46% that it was adequately addressing technical aspects.
Also, 60% of survey respondents said that they were highly effective at meeting regulatory and compliance requirements posed by interoperability.
In addition, 41% reported that their hospital or health system was very effective at supporting quality reporting, 33% that is was improving communication and coordination of care across teams and facilities, 34% that it was increasing patient satisfaction and engagement, 31% that it was improving operational efficiencies and 26% that it was improving clinical workflow efficiencies.
There’s clearly still a lot of work to be done here, however. Almost one-third of hospitals and health system respondents reported that their data-sharing efforts are insufficient, with less than 40% reporting they were seeing success in sharing data with other health systems.
The most common way organizations are meeting their interoperability challenges is to switch to a single integrated EHR system, with almost 60% choosing this approach, researchers said. Other popular strategies included hiring new talent (44%), partnering with interoperability technology vendors (40%), boosting analytics skills of existing employee (39%), leveraging HIEs (38%) and moving to high-profile health data exchange standards like FHIR (37%).
Still, given their existing limitations, healthcare providers are finding it difficult to enable patient-facing apps, tap into unstructured data and reduce the cost of care. For example, just 27% of respondents said their interoperability efforts had allowed them to lower the cost of care.
Other projects respondents said they were being held back by a lack of interoperability including improving workflow, enabling new models of care, advancing analytics capabilities, improving patient experience and engagement, improving care coordination and being more competitive with rival health systems.
To build up their interoperability capabilities, respondents said, key factors include commitment from senior leaders, financial incentives or penalties encouraging organizations to share data with partners and patients and advances in tools and technologies.
To be sure, this data demonstrates that hospitals and health systems have made a great deal of progress with health data sharing over the last several years. However, given the extent to which they’re still struggling, one has to wonder whether how much further progress is even possible over the long term. Plus, are they even measuring the right things when it comes to interoperability?