ONC: EHRs grow, interoperability lags
October 10, 2014 in Medical Technology
Health IT infrastructure has made significant progress in recent years, with EHR adoption among hospitals and physicians growing. However, the development of health information exchanges and interoperability – needed to provide more effective care – still has a long way to go.
These findings in the annual report to Congress from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology show decidedly mixed results, outlining steady adoption of many of the goals set out by the HITECH Act of 2009, while not yet achieving the interoperability that could leverage health technologies to transform care.
“This progress has laid a strong base for health IT adoption and created a growing demand for interoperability that not only supports the care continuum, but also supports health generally,” ONC explained in the report.
As an example of what has been accomplished, the report showed that in 2013, 59 percent of hospitals and 48 percent of physicians had at least a basic EHR system — respective increases of 47 percentage points and 26 percentage points since HITECH became law. And hospitals and professionals are increasingly participating in the CMS EHR Incentive Programs. As of June 2014, 75 percent (403,000) of the nation’s eligible professionals and 92 percent (4,500) of eligible hospitals and CAHs had received incentive payments.
ONC acknowledged some of the limits thus far.
“Electronic health information is not yet sufficiently standardized to allow seamless interoperability, as it is still inconsistently expressed through technical and medical vocabulary, structure, and format, thereby limiting the potential uses of the information to improve health and care,” ONC wrote.
The report gives causes for optimism, outlining the continuing development of HIEs in every healthcare setting.
[See also: DeSalvo: Interoperability ‘top priority’.]
The ONC report said that in 2013, 69 percent of physicians reported the capability to order lab tests electronically and 77 percent reported they can view lab results electronically. In addition, 42 percent provide patients the capability to view online, download, or transmit information from their medical record, a requirement for Stage 2 of meaningful use.
Also, there have been significant increases in e-prescribing among healthcare providers. Fifty-seven percent of new and renewal prescriptions sent by physicians in 2013 were sent electronically, a fourteen-fold increase since 2008. Moreover, in 2013, 70 percent of providers use an EHR to e-prescribe on the Surescripts Network, up 63 percent since 2008. The proportion of the nation’s community pharmacies actively e-prescribing on the Surescripts Network grew from 76 percent in 2008 to 96 percent in 2013, an increase of 20 percentage points.