Interoperability Issues Of EMR Applications Pose Challenges To Healthcare Organizations

04/30/2015 11:29

The interoperability of EMR software applications has been an important point of focus in the annual report given to Congress by the Office of the National Coordinator. The report says, “Electronic health information is not yet sufficiently standardized to allow seamless interoperability, as it is still inconsistently expressed through technical and medical vocabulary, structure, and format, thereby limiting the potential uses of the information to improve health and care.”

Many EMR software companies in the market develop and release different types of applications for storing and saving health records. However, when it comes to accessing these records, the health organizations face many hassles. As we all know, instant access to health records ought to be ensured for providing the patients with the best care. However, many of the healthcare companies state the interoperability as a big challenge in this regard. A recent survey revealed that about 90 percent of ACOs face many challenges due to the issue of interoperability.

So, what exactly is the reason behind these interoperability challenges? Mark Pasquale, who is the CEO of Missouri Health Connection says that most of the EMR software companies settle with the IHE USA standard for the function. The standards are interpreted in different ways by different EMR software companies. Pascal says, “An example of this is that in one of the elements sections, we generally pass what’s called a uniqueID. It’s specified that it has to be a unique ID, but it doesn’t seem to say how it needs to be constructed.  Different EMR vendors will construct the uniqueID in different ways. So while the uniqueID may exist, it might not be recognizable or process-able by multiple EMRs.”

Pasquale is a big supporter of IHE standards and he has reasons for it. He says, “The folks that put that put that standard together did a great job. I believe that to date, it’s the best standard we have to achieve interoperability, whether it’s EMR to EMR, EMR to HIE, or HIE to HIE,” and that “The guidelines they provide are excellent, very thorough, and easy to understand and implement.  But there is variability when you go to implement it. With any standard interpreted by multiple organizations, you’re going to have that happen.”

Now, if the EMR software companies are able to eliminate this variability, then the interoperability issues could be avoided. MHC has identified this need and is hence working on standardizing it. This means, we might soon see many big changes in this regard, which would ultimately benefit both the patients and the health care firms.