Hospital electronic health data exchange on the rise

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Data sharing by hospitals is rising, but varies by the type of clinical information exchanged and recipient, according to a new study published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

The researchers--including National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari--analyzed over 2,800 hospitals from 2008 through 2012. They found that health information exchange increased 41 percent during that period, with the most rapid growth after 2010, but also found substantial variation in what was exchanged and to whom.

For instance, in 2012 more than half of the hospitals analyzed (51 percent) exchanged clinical information with unaffiliated ambulatory care providers, but only about one-third (36 percent) exchanged information with unaffiliated hospitals. Not surprisingly, hospitals with an electronic health record system and that participated in a health information organization were more likely to electronically exchange information.

There also was variation by the type of information exchanged. While more than half of the hospitals exchanged lab results or radiology reports, only one-third shared clinical care summaries or medication lists with outside providers. The researchers suggested that the discrepancy could be attributed to established standards and progress in developing interfaces for the lab and radiology data by leading vendors.

"This shortcoming limits efforts to improve patient safety and coordinate care across settings," the researchers warned.

They also suggested that Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program and new payment models have the potential to include information exchange among providers. This recommendation was echoed in recent report published by Chilmark Research.

Interoperability is a cornerstone of the Meaningful Use program. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has been stepping up efforts to improve data sharing and creating interoperability requirements for Stage 3 of the program.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract in Health Affairs

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