Guest Column | October 11, 2013

Interoperability: The Reality

Providers are being accused of slowing the advance of technology by not adapting fast enough, but is the technology being offered worth adapting to?

By Linda M. Girgis, MD, FAAFP

Interoperability seems to be the key word in health IT these days. Those of us in the healthcare field dream of a day when we have true interoperability across systems, a day when we can access the patient’s data wherever it may be with the use of our own systems.

Many people say physicians are reluctant to adapt new technology and this reluctance is keeping us from reaching the goal of true interoperability. But, the reality is the technology is just not there yet. In my own practice, I have struggled to make my own systems interoperable.

My EHR software’s support team has been trying to interface with my web site to make my patient portal active for eight months and have been unable to do so. This inability to interface creates extra steps for my staff and wastes time – time that could be spent doing something more productive. It also leads to the possibility of a patient’s information being erroneously filed into another patient’s chart.

Needless to say, the problems my staff is experiencing are not acceptable, nor is the inconvenience I encounter when I’m in the exam room with a patient and did not his results available because they were sitting in the scanning queue waiting to be filed.

When my staff or I call support, we are always told that our interface is at the top of their priority list. Nevertheless, there is no estimation of when this interfacing will be completed.

Our EHR has interfaced with two large labs - Quest and Labcorp – but smaller labs have tried to interface and were unable. The hospital in my area, as well as radiology facilities near me, do not have the capabilities to interface with my EHR so for now  we are logging into their individual websites, downloading test results, and pasting them into a patient’s chart. A second option is to receive the results by fax and scan them into record.

While we long for ease of access of patient data through a completely operable infrastructure, the technology still does not support this. We need to call on EHR vendors to step up the technology to allow the interfacing that needs to be done to make our systems communicate with each other.

As it stands now, there are numerous EHR vendors out there making it overwhelmingly difficult for a provider to know which one is best. For now, we have to wait for the technology to catch up to our aspirations. But once this happens, the ability to interface and communicate between systems will make us more efficient and save time, freeing us up to spend more time with our patients. It also should decrease the risk of results being misfiled.

About The Author
Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP, is a board certified family doctor with Girgis Family Practice. Dr. Girgis studied medicine at St. George's University School of Medicine and served her residency at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, PA.