Internet searches. Friends with similar symptoms. Medical journals. When a doctor hands a patient a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, that patient and their family often makes it their mission to learn as much as they can about the disease. That means finding and booking appointments with multiple doctors in the hopes of a cure.
With each office visit, the patient has a new set of notes. Often there’s conflicting advice about what to do next. Each medical professional is making the best judgement he or she can based on available patient information. The operative word here is “available.” Every patient-provider interaction generates some kind of record, whether it be physician notes, prescriptions, release guidelines or something else. Even patient- generated data, captured by devices like smart watches, become part of a patient’s overall health and data record and are integral to making the most informed care decisions.
This speaks to the need for a national system that supports the sharing and glitch-free transmission of a patient’s complete medical history and data among care providers. Ultimately, stakeholders need to ramp up efforts to overcome any remaining technical and/or regulatory barriers that stand in the way of true interoperability of patient records.
Several hospital associations recently came together to identify six pathways to interoperability.
Source: American Hospital Association | Click image to enlarge
I’ve spent the past 20 years directing large-scale financial and staff investments in electronic health records, health information exchanges and technical work-arounds to share needed health information. In my role as chief administrative officer of an academic medical center, I’m proud that my team has earned HIMSS Analytics Stage 7. Certainly healthcare systems have made progress, but not enough.
Interoperability is also a personal issue for me. When a family member suffered a serious illness we embarked on an arduous treatment journey. Specialists in two states, multiple medications and multiple tests with results that were critical for each provider to understand. I did my best to serve as the human interface to ensure mistakes weren’t made due to lack of information. It would have been easier had the comprehensive medical records been easily accessible, in a useable format, to every specialist we saw.
Information is power. In healthcare, patient records and data from all sources that are accurately transferable among all providers confers the power to make the best-informed care decisions possible. Hospitals and healthcare systems have done the best they can using the tools available to them. We’ve come far and the finish line is in sight. Let’s cross over.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.
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