Penetration rates for electronic health records systems in group practices remains low, in the 20% range, according to a recent survey by the Medical Group Management Association, even though physicians today can choose products from several hundred EHR vendors.
One day, however, if the goal of having an interconnected healthcare record is to be achieved, all of these disparate EHR systems will have to communicate with each other.
To help set a basic framework for that communication, three healthcare IT industry groups have joined in common cause in what is being called the EHR interoperability collaboration process.
"This is a process that's been put in place to help get interoperability implemented in our lifetime," said Joyce Sensmeier, director of informatics the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, one of the three groups.
Joining HIMSS in the effort are Health Level 7, an ANSI-accredited standards development organization for healthcare IT and the group that sets technical standards for IT communication; and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, an organization that helps IT developers and users in the real-world implementation of such IT standards as HL-7, DICOM and others.
Participants in the EHR interoperability process met last week in Chicago. They included representatives from various standards development organizations, the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Massachusetts Medical Society, American Medical Association and Alliance for Nursing Informatics along with vendors, physicians, nurses and informaticists.
One goal of the meeting, according to Sensmeier, was to hear from physicians and nurses on what basic information all EHRs need to communicate with one another. The list they developed includes data about patient allergies, medication lists, histories, history of present illness, chief complaints, vital signs and diagnostic test results, she said.
"We intend to have a demonstration of this first effort at HIMSS 2006," Sensmeier said, referring to her group's annual trade show scheduled for Feb. 12-16 in San Diego. Vendors could incorporate the basic interconnectivity framework in the software products for testing by Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise and have them ready for market by next year, she said.