News Feature | February 17, 2015

Lack Of Interoperability, Care Plans Devalue EHRs

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

AAFP: EHRs Are Failing Your Healthcare IT Clients And Their Patients

Vendors must respond to reduce EHR limitations that impede proper interoperability.

While EHRs have proven to be effective in coordinating primary patient care, the lack of interoperability and care plans make them incomplete tools that challenge medical staffs almost as much as they help them, according to a new study published by JAMIA. The findings supported those of an earlier American College of Physicians study which, according to Healthcare Dive, reached an almost identical conclusion.

In light of ONC’s push for interoperability, including the release of Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0, pressure is increasing on EHR vendors to deliver what has been promised: technology that can actually improve patient care and patient outcomes.

The JAMIA study revealed that, while EHRs are useful for streamlining communication and task delegation as well as helping make offload work more efficient for physicians by creating templates for symptom-specific data collection by nurses and medical assistants, the lack of interoperability and inadequate tracking of patient care over time means that their value continues to be undermined.

The JAMIA study found the weakest areas in EHR functionalities included the lack of integrated care manager software and care plans in EHRs, poor practice registry functionality and interoperability, and inadequate ease of tracking patient data in the EHR over time.

The JAMIA study concluded, “EHR vendors in the United States need to work alongside practicing primary care teams to create more clinically useful EHRs that support dynamic care plans, integrated care management software, more functional and interoperable practice registries, and greater ease of data tracking over time.”

The ACP report concluded EHRs should be leveraged for what they can do to improve care and documentation, including effectively displaying prior information that shows historical information in rich context; supporting critical thinking; enabling efficient and effective documentation; and supporting appropriate and secure sharing of useful and usable information with others, including patients, families, and caregivers. “These features are unlikely to be optimized as long as the format and content of clinical documentation are primarily based on coding and other regulatory requirements.”

According to Health Dive, one problem is programmers and healthcare professionals approach EHRs differently: technologists see them as a programming puzzle to be solved, while healthcare professionals view EHRs as a way of streamlining healthcare plans and ultimately to reduce costs while maintaining quality of care.