Nearly one-third of hospitals are struggling with various types of data sharing, according to survey findings released Monday.
Interoperability challenges aren't new. But while previous studies focused on challenges with sharing data between hospitals, a new survey from the Center for Connected Medicine, a center jointly operated by GE Healthcare, Nokia and UPMC, breaks down interoperability as data sharing with colleagues, payers and patients, as well as other hospitals.
Only 69% of respondents said their hospital was very or extremely successful at sharing medical data within their own organization, according to the survey of 100 hospital IT and business leaders. HIMSS Media conducted the survey on behalf of the Center for Connected Medicine in June.
The majority of hospital leaders reported moving to a single electronic health record system as one of the steps they're taking to address interoperability challenges. That represented the most popular solution at 57%, compared to the runner-up—hiring new talent—at only 44%. And it's a pricey solution, as implementing a new EHR can involve millions of dollars.
This past spring, University Health System in San Antonio kicked off a $170 million systemwide EHR installation, scrapping its current Allscripts EHR in favor of one from Epic Systems Corp. At the time, the health system said the breadth of Epic's client base played a central role in its decision, as University Health said switching to Epic would help to improve local interoperability.
But there are other data-sharing workarounds. Hospital leaders also reported taking steps like partnering with interoperability technology vendors (40%), upskilling the analytics skill set of existing employees (39%) and using health information exchanges (38%).
UPMC Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Robert Bart, who was not involved in the recent survey, said the Pittsburgh health system uses separate EHRs for its ambulatory, acute and ambulatory oncology spaces. The health system isn't looking to move to a single EHR.
"We've had to leverage different tools and technologies to help us share information," Bart said. That's included a document-management tool that allows clinicians to move progress notes between EHRs and data-aggregation tool that pulls data from across systems.
Hospitals in the survey were most successful at sharing medical data within their own organization, according to the survey findings, followed by 58% and 57% of respondents who said their organizations were highly successful at sharing medical data with payers and their patients, respectively.
Hospitals reported being least successful at sharing medical data with other health systems, with only 37% indicating they are very or extremely successful at the practice.
That's consistent with other findings. A data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released late last year found only 41% of acute-care hospitals could share patient health information with sources outside of their organization, when data sharing was defined as sending, receiving, finding and integrating outside information.
Commitment from senior leadership (53%), financial incentives (52%), and advances in tools and technology solutions (52%) were roughly tied as top areas needed to push interoperability forward.
Only 27% said more policies and federal regulations were most needed to encourage data sharing, despite this being a recent regulatory focus.
The ONC and the CMS are working to finalize companion interoperability and information-blocking rules the two agencies proposed in February, which outline how regulators will require insurers and providers to share medical data with patients. That's included a focus on using application programming interfaces and third-party apps.