In the last full year of the Obama administration, federal policymakers remain so focused on interoperability that an annual gathering hosted by the top national information technology office leans hard on the issue.
More than a quarter of the nearly 40 sessions at this week's sixth annual conference of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT concern interoperability.
One session will set a baseline on the industry's progress; another will cover better measures on achieving health information exchange.
The American Hospital Association is scheduled to release its latest data as well and outline remaining barriers during the two-day gathering in D.C.
The AHA reported this year that in 2014, 57% of hospitals could exchange records with facilities outside of their systems and 60% could trade information with outside ambulatory-care providers. Those numbers were up from 22% and 37%, respectively, from 2013.
Chantal Worzala, the AHA's director of policy, said that despite the federal funding meant to give providers incentives to update their systems, technical incompatibility is still a problem. “And so the actual exchange may be challenging,” she said, adding that it's complicated by the inability to accurately match patients.
While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act does not require patient consent for most uses of their electronic medical information—for treatment, payment and many other healthcare operations—patients can demand that providers withhold sending their medical records to their insurers if the patient pays for that visit or procedure out of pocket.