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Why EHR Interoperability Requires Health IT Infrastructure

EHR interoperability is a significant challenge for healthcare organizations especially if they don't have the health IT infrastructure to support it.

Health IT infrastructure is key for EHR interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are still challenged by EHR interoperability, and are seeking health IT infrastructure tools to ensure data is accurately, efficiently, and securely shared.

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.

Eagle Physicians needed a way to provide better quality care to patients as those individuals move among locations.

“With the six-hospital Cone Health as the only health system in town, we needed a bidirectional exchange to share patient records at the point of service, especially to make our data available to the ED and hospitalists,” Eagle Physicians and Associates Family Physician Dr. Robert Fried said in a statement.

Eagle Physicians and Associates selected the eClinicalWorks platform to bridge gaps between patient data exchange. Eagle Physician Associates is a multi-specialty group, meaning that it works with other organizations frequently. This requires the organization to constantly exchange patient data, driving the need for improved EHR interoperability.

The eClinicalWorks Carequality Interoperability Framework assists Eagle Physician Associates in exchanging and sharing data with Cone Health and other partners, such as UNC-Chapel Hill Medical Center, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Novant Health. Eagle Physician Associates uses the Framework with call use Epic EHRs.

Eagle Physicians and Associates was also able to find missing lab results, identify potential drug-to-drug interactions and make data available to other entities. This helps the group work on the organization’s patient centered, preventative care approach.

“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.”

Interoperability challenges most healthcare organizations when it comes to EHRs and other health IT infrastructure tools that support EHRs. Entities are faced with legacy systems that do not communicate or exchange data correctly with more advanced systems.

EHRs are the top technology healthcare organizations struggle with when it comes to interoperability. Many entities are looking to improve or replace their EHRs to facilitate better interoperability among their organization, and also with other outside organizations.

Interoperability issues begin with EHRs and extend to health IT infrastructure systems as more organizations are digitizing their infrastructure. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) also play a large part in interoperability among disparate health IT systems.

An API is an interface that allows unrelated software programs to communicate with one another. They act as bridges between two applications, allowing data to flow regardless of how each application was originally designed.  

For applications that function by pulling a constant stream of data from one or more sources, an API is especially important to decrease development time, save storage space on endpoint devices, and overcome any differences in the standards or programming languages used to create the data that lives at either end of the bridge.  

APIs play a large part in EHR interoperability as well as interoperability between other healthcare applications. Cloud-based and on-premises healthcare applications need APIs to communicate standard information to each other to save time for both developers and clinicians entering information.

The patient-centric model many organizations are embracing also requires a high level of interoperability among different EHR systems. Patients are beginning to interact more with their own records and need to present that record to multiple providers as needed for primary, emergency, and specialist care.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) showed its support for standardized APIs recently. CMS wants to help providers meet requirements for electronic patient access to health information by giving consumers tools to easily interact with their personal health data.

Healthcare organizations need to implement proper IT infrastructure tools to ensure interoperability among EHRs and other healthcare apps. Interoperability cuts down on the time clinicians need to spend entering patient information and gives clinicians more accurate information to treat patients.