A recent New York Times article titled “Tech Rivalries Impede Digital Medical Record Sharing” addresses a critical issue for medicine – data blocking. In addition to high fees charged by some vendors for access to records, a lack of consistency in file formats among vendors prevents electronic medical records from meeting their potential to improve patient care.
Different electronic medical record vendors collect data in varying formats, making it difficult to share information without additional data entry and creating gaps that reduce the value of the health records to doctors and patients. If the issues of exorbitant fees and consistency across platforms are not addressed, electronic medical records will unfortunately be an added burden that does not meet its huge potential for advancing the quality of medical care in this nation.
Data blocking is just one of the concerns the ACC’s Board of Governors discussed this spring in response to another New York Times opinion piece titled “Why Health Care Tech Is Still so Bad.” I chronicled several Governors’ electronic health record (EHR) journeys in the latest Leadership Page in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. I encourage you to read about some of the hurdles as I can guarantee that you have encountered similar issues in your practices and hospitals.
With hundreds of EHR systems in the marketplace, one of the most pressing issues is ensuring standards are in place so that data can be transmitted across systems. The ACC has long recognized the importance of health IT interoperability and Congress is finally catching up. This spring, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced their aim to accomplish five items related to interoperability of EHRs by the end of the year—whether through legislative means or an administrative fix. To accomplish this goal, the HELP Committee recently solicited feedback from stakeholder organizations, including the ACC. In its comments, the College provided recommendations related to vendor data blocking, effective EHR standards, post-certification surveillance of EHR systems, the reevaluation of HIPAA and security of data, and the delay of Meaningful Use Stage 3 in its entirety. Given the ACC’s diverse membership of cardiovascular care team members and its operation of five hospital-based, one outpatient, and two multi-specialty clinical data registries, the College is well-positioned to continue guiding the government in this space.
While we all face significant challenges to successfully implementing and using EHRs in practice, they aren’t going away and the cardiology community, and medical community as a whole, must figure out how to make the technology work for us. Additionally, as we move from “volume” to “value” in understanding and managing population health it becomes imperative that we have consistent platforms which are accurate, easy to use and interoperable.
Has your EHR made your life easier, or has its presence made your work more challenging? Please share your thoughts below.