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EHR Interoperability Transformations Affect HIT Infrastructure

Large-scale EHR interoperability efforts among health systems improve patient care by providing up-to-date information.

EHR interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Surescripts announced the addition of 14 new health systems to its National Record Locator Service (NRLS), which aims to enhance EHR interoperability among disparate healthcare systems.

The new health systems include Allegheny Health Network (Pennsylvania), The Institute for Family Health (New York), JPS Health Network (Texas), Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, St. Luke’s Health System (Idaho), and WakeMed Health & Hospitals (North Carolina).

“Having the opportunity to implement National Record Locator Service will benefit both our patients and providers in accessing the most up-to-date patient information, so timely and accurate diagnosis can be obtained,” St. Luke’s Health System Vice President and CIO Marc Chasin, MD said in a statement. “This service will allow us to avoid unnecessary costs to the patient and St. Luke’s Health System.”

These organizations are among 28 NRLS participants that will have nationwide access to 230 million clinical records. Thirteen additional health systems are currently considering Surescript’s NRLS for a potential 41 total health systems using the service.

“In today’s fragmented healthcare environment, health systems need an easy way to securely exchange patient information,” Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton said in a statement. “We are thrilled to help 14 more health systems access important patient care information to increase patient safety, lower costs and ensure quality care.”

NRLS allows clinicians to share clinical records nationwide across locations, networks, and technology platforms. NRLS provides clinicians with the ability to quickly retrieve patient information from previous visits with previous care providers.

The technology also leverages the nationwide Carequality Interoperability Framework that uses a common set of legal, technical, and policy rules for data sharing.

Surescripts has partnered with EHR vendors including eClinicalWorks, Epic, and NextGen Healthcare, all of which support NRLS.

Increasing EHR interoperability is one of the top priorities concerning health IT infrastructure.

“A lack of data hinders care coordination and creates the risk of costly duplication of care, estimated at $148–$226 billion annually,” said Surescripts in a statement. “A lack of access to data can also lead to incorrect diagnosis or treatment, resulting in serious harm to patients or even death.”

“A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 59 percent of diagnostic errors harmed patients. Of those errors, 59 percent caused serious harm, and 30 percent resulted in death.”

Organizations might have the technology to perform better and more accurate diagnoses, but often struggle to use that information effectively when it comes to combining it with information from another EHR.

EHRs were not built to easily migrate data. Different EHRs have different data fields and often the quality of data between two EHRs does not match up, leading to interoperability issues.

Health systems are constantly seeking tools and strategies that will solve interoperability issues and allow them to better care for patients.

Last month, Eagle Physicians and Associates and Cone Health announced the successful exchange between the eClinicalWorks cloud-based EHR and the Epic EHR for improved EHR interoperability among multiple locations and health systems.

The exchange was significant because it allowed Eagle Physicians to work with Cone Health smoothly. Cone Health is the only health system in the town where Eagle Physicians is located. Furthermore, the lack of interoperability was damaging the quality of patient care because Cone Health and Eagle Physicians interact frequently and see many of the same patients.

Improving interoperability gave Eagle Physicians a much better view into their patients, allowing them to find missing lab results, identify potential drug-to-drug interactions, and make data available to other entities. 

“Interoperability is essential for improving healthcare delivery,” eClinicalWorks CEO and Co-Founder Girish Navani said in a statement. “Eagle Physicians and Associates has experienced an improved system to deliver patient care. Immediate access to patient records has enhanced communication by providing physicians and patients access to critical information at the point of care.”

Embracing large-scale EHR interoperability efforts is an important step for healthcare organizations that frequently run into issues retrieving patient data from other health systems. Becoming involved in mass interoperability efforts will help clinicians and patients access the information they need.


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