New research from the ONC has found that a meaningful percentage of hospitals are engaged in data sharing, with a growing number making patient health information available from outside sources. Though the data goes back a couple of years, it’s still a worthwhile look at where data sharing trends are among hospitals. It will also be interesting to see how this data changes post-COVID-19.
According to the report, which looked at hospital interoperability in 2018, almost half of hospitals participated in all four domains of interoperability, e.g. sending, receiving, finding and integrating data. On average, researchers found that hospitals used roughly three different electronic methods to electronically exchange summary of care records with outside providers.
Meanwhile, the percentage of hospitals that received and searched for or queried summary of care records grew in 2018, and the percent of hospitals with the capacity to integrate data into their EHR grew by 17% between 2017 and 2018.
Also, electronic availability of patient health information from outside sources grew by 10% in 2018, and the percent of hospitals reporting that their providers can access needed information electronically from outside sources grew from 51% to 56% between 2017 and 2018. While a 5 percent jump is modest, it underscores that data sharing is trending upward.
When providers reported that they weren’t using patient health information, reasons included that the information wasn’t always available (52%), that the information was available but not integrated into the EHR (50%), that the information wasn’t presented in a useful format (34%), that specific and relevant information was hard to find (23%), that the information was integrated into the EHR but not into clinician workflow (17%), that they didn’t trust that the information was accurate (10%) and that vocabulary and/or semantic differences limited use of the information (6%).
The most common reason cited as a barrier to electronic data exchange was difficulty exchanging data across different EHR vendor platforms, which was cited by 60% of respondents. Other reasons cited included that it was difficult to find providers’ addresses (60%), that exchange partners’ EHR lacked the ability to receive data (54%), that partners they wanted to send data to didn’t have an EHR or other electronic system able to receive it (52%) and that many recipients of care summaries reported that the information they received wasn’t useful (46%).
In addition, about four in 10 hospitals said that costs were a barrier to data sharing, including the expense of developing customized interfaces needed to exchange health information electronically as well as pay additional costs to connect with outside providers.
It will be interesting to take this as a baseline before COVID-19 and then to look how things have changed. Plus, it’s interesting that there was almost no discussion of interoperability with public health entities and there probably should have been that discussion in this report as well.