Recently, seven major hospital systems put out a bold call.
It is crucial, they contend, to improve data sharing and interoperability among EMRs and EHRs. As Fierce Healthcare reports, "In a 2017 AHA survey, 57% of respondents had experienced challenges sending the proper information to a different vendor platform. And 37% ran into challenges just matching patient identities between systems."
Any healthcare provider who works with Electronic Medical Records won't dispute that data sharing is lacking with these tools. But despite the importance of this report, I see 3 crucial blindspots that it has -- and that your hospital may have, too.
I agree that interoperability among EMRs and EHRs is something that we should all demand. The simple access to data about your patient is as fundamental as having a clean and private exam room to see that patient in... or as having the ability to record your own notes about that patient.
So I was glad to see this hospital report come out. That said, I believe there are three crucial shortcomings to this report. And identifying them isn't so much to undermine the findings or importance of the report itself -- but to identify blindspots that your hospital may have as it begins to pursue interoperability of EMRs and EHRs.
3 crucial shortcomings to focusing on EMR interoperability:
- EMRs / EHRs will never be true healthcare collaboration tools.
No matter how sophisticated interoperability among medical records becomes, the truth is that these systems will never be true healthcare collaboration tools. The records simply aren't made to easily facilitate multidirectional care coordination and medical collaboration among all members of a care team. And so it's a mistake to believe that by solving interoperability, we might have improved care coordination or collaboration.
- Providers need better tools now.
The reality is that even if EMRs and EHRs become more interoperable, healthcare providers need better communication and collaboration in the meantime. The reality is that today, EMRs and EHRs consistently get in the way of sharing data and patient information. Until the day that EMRs/EHRs are interoperable, healthcare providers must take the burden on themselves of making sure that other members of the care team have HIPPA-secure access to patient information.
- We need collaboration among people, not computers.
The AHA report emphasized that "there is an urgent need to coalesce around improved standards that overcome the significant gaps making communication difficult between systems." In other words: we need our computers to communicate better. But the harder truth is that allowing computer systems to share data is just Step One. What is really needed in medicine is the ability of providers to collaborate and coordinate care. The data-sharing is just the foundation -- it doesn't necessarily facilitate the profound collaboration that needs to occur for good care to happen.
As always, these organization-level initiatives -- like those to improve interoperability -- are crucial. They are long-term projects that affect key foundational aspects of what we do as providers. But these projects are often uni-dimensional and may not affect our work in the holistic ways we need them to. So even as hospital-level and nation-level work occurs, we as providers must create and demand tools that are immediate and holistic enough to support excellent care for our patients.