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E-Patient Update: Apple Offers iPhone EMR Access

Posted on June 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Over the last few years, Apple has steadily beefed up the health data access provided by its iPhone operating system, in ways that have made some sense. But depending on how consumers react, its latest effort may have the biggest impact of all of its data sharing efforts to date.

In its latest mobile operating system, Apple is allowing users to store their EMR data directly in its Health app, using the HL7 CCD standard. And while this isn’t a huge step forward for interoperability, it does give e-patients like me a greater sense of control, which is definitely a good thing.

In recent years, Apple has made increasingly sophisticated efforts to unify healthcare data. Perhaps the highest profile effort is the summer 2014 launch of HealthKit, a healthcare data integration platform whose features include connecting consumer-generated data with traditional clinical sources such as the Epic EMR.

Meanwhile, it has steadily added capabilities to the Health app, which launched with iOS 8. Since then, it has been encouraging consumers to manage health data on their phone using HealthKit-enabled apps like the Epic MyChart patient portal app. The new EMR data retrieval function is available in the iOS 10 version of Health.

According to Apple blog 9to5Mac, consumers can import the CCD data from Mail, Safari and other applications as well as into Health. When consumers add the CCD file to Health, the app opens and providers a quick preview of the document’s data, including the healthcare provider’s name, patient’s name and document owner’s name. It also identifies the document’s custodian. Once downloaded, the device stores the document in encrypted form, indefinitely.

Also, when a user confirms that they want to save the record to the Health app, the CCD info is added to a list of all of the health record documents stored in the app, making it easier to identify the entire scope of what a user has stored.

Looked at one way, the addition of medical record storage capabilities to the latest iOS release may not seem like a big deal. After all, I’ve been downloading broad swaths of my healthcare data from the Epic MyChart app for a couple of years now, and it hasn’t rocked my world. The document MyChart produces can be useful, but it’s not easily shareable. How will it change patients’  lives to store multiple records on their cell phone, their tablet or heaven help us, their Apple Watch?

On the surface, the answer is almost certainly “not much,” but I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. Yes, this solution doesn’t sound particularly elegant, nor especially useful for patients who want to share data with clinicians. My guess is that at first, most consumers will download a few records and forget that they’re available.

However, Apple brings something unique to the table. It has what may be the best-integrated consumer technology base on the planet, and can still claim a large, fanatical following for its products. If it trains up its user base to demand EMR data, they might trigger a cultural shift in what data patients expect to have available. And that could prove to be a powerful force for change.

ZibdyHealth Adapts to Sub-Optimal Data Exchange Standards for a Personal Health Record

Posted on May 10, 2016 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

Reformers in the health care field, quite properly, emphasize new payment models and culture changes to drive improvements in outcomes. But we can’t ignore the barriers that current technology puts in the way of well-meaning reformers. This article discusses one of the many companies offering a patient health record (PHR) and the ways they’ve adapted to a very flawed model for data storage and exchange.

I had the honor to be contacted by Dr. Hirdey Bhathal, CEO/Founder of ZibdyHealth. Like many companies angling to develop a market for PHRs, ZibdyHealth offers a wide range of services to patients. Unlike, say, Google Health (of blessed memory) or Microsoft HealthVault, ZibdyHealth doesn’t just aspire to store your data, but to offer additional services that make it intensely valuable to you. Charts and visualizations. for instance, will let you see your progress with laboratory and device data over time. They call this a “Smart HIE.” I’ll look a bit at what they offer, and then at the broken model for data exchange that they had to overcome in the health care industry.

The ZibdyHealth application

Setting up an account with ZibdyHealth is as easy as joining Facebook. Once you’re there, you can create health information manually. The company is working with fitness device makers to allow automatic uploads of device data, which can then be saved as a standard Continuity of Care Document (CCD) and offered to doctors.

You can also upload information from your physician via their health care portal–with a degree of ease or difficulty depending on your provider–and share it with other clinicians or family members (Figure 1). You have fine-grained control over which medications, diagnoses, and other information to share, a form of control called segmentation in health care.

Figure 1. Zibdy discharge summary displayed on mobile device

Figure 1. Summary of visit in Zibdy

Dr. Bhathal would like his application to serve whole families and teams, not just individuals. Whether you are caring for your infant or your aging grandmother, they want their platform to meet your needs. In fact, they are planning to deploy their application in some developing nations as an electronic medical record for rural settings, where one healthcare provider will be able to manage the health data for an entire village.

Currently, ZibdyHealth allows speciality clinics to share information with the patient’s regular doctor, helps identify interactions between drugs provided by different doctors, and allows parents to share their children’s health information with schools. This consolidation and quick sharing of medical information will work well with minute clinics or virtual MD visits.

ZibdyHealth is HIPAA-compliant, and support highly secure 256-bit AES encryption for data exchange. Like health care providers, they may share data with partners for operational purposes, but they promise never to sell your data–unlike many popular patient networks. Although they sometimes aggregate anonymized data, they do so to offer you better services, not to sell it on the market or to sell you other services themselves.

In some ways, ZibdyHealth is like a health information exchange (HIE), and as we shall see, they face some of the same problems. But current HIEs connect only health care providers, and are generally limited to large health care systems with ample resources. PHR applications such as ZibdyHealth aim to connect physicians and patients with others, such as family members, therapists, nursing homes, assisted care facilities, and independent living facilities. In addition, most HIEs only work within small states or regions, whereas ZibdyHealth is global. They plan to follow a business model where they provide the application for free to individuals, without advertisements, but charge enterprises who choose the application in order to reach and serve their patients.

Tackling the data dilemma

We’d see a lot more services like ZibdyHealth (and they’d be more popular with patients, providers, and payers) if data exchange worked like it does in the travel industry or other savvy market sectors. Interoperability will enable the “HIE of one” I introduced in an earlier article. In the meantime, ZibdyHealth has carried out a Herculean effort to do the best they can in today’s health exchange setting.

What do they use to get data from patient portals and clinicians’ EHRs? In a phrase, every recourse possible.

  • Many organizations now offer portals that allow patients to download their records in CCD format. ZibdyHealth works with a number of prominent institutions to make uploading easy (Figure 2). Or course, the solution is always a contingent one, because the provider still owns your data. After your next visit, you have to download it again. ZibdyHealth is working on automating this updating process so that providers can feed this information to the patient routinely and, by uploading the discharge CCD as part of a patient’s discharge process, ensure an easy and accurate transition of care.

  • Figure 2. List of electronic records uploaded to Zibdy through their CCD output

    Figure 2. List of uploaded CCDs

  • If providers aren’t on ZibdyHealth’s list of partners, but still offer a CCD, you can download it yourself using whatever mechanism your provider offers, then upload it to ZibdyHealth. ZibdyHealth has invested an enormous amount to parse the various fields of different EHRs and figure out where information is, because the CCD is a very imperfect standard and EHRs differ greatly. I tried the download/upload technique with my own primary care provider and found that ZibdyHealth handled it gracefully.

  • ZibdyHealth also supports Blue Button, the widely adopted XML format that originated at the VA as a text file.

I see ZibdyHealth as one of the early explorers who have to hew a path through the forest to reach their goal. As more individuals come to appreciate the benefits of such services, roads will be paved. Each patient who demands that their doctor make it easy to connect with an application like ZibdyHealth will bring closer the day when we won’t have to contort ourselves to share data.

CommonWell Announces Sites For Interoperability Rollout

Posted on December 13, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Nine months after announcing their plan to increase interoperability between health IT data sources, the CommonWell Health Alliance has disclosed the locations where it will first offer interoperability services.

CommonWell, whose members now include health IT vendors Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway, McKesson, RelayHealth and Sunquest, launched to some skepticism — and a bit of behind-the-hand smirks because Epic Systems wasn’t included — but certainly had the industry’s attention.  And today, the vendors do seem to have critical mass, as the Alliance’s founding members represent 42 percent of the acute and 23 percent of the ambulatory EMR market, according to research firms SK&A and KLAS.

Now, the rubber meets the road, with the Alliance sharing a list of locations where it will first roll out services. It’s connecting providers in Chicago, Elkin and Henderson, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina. Interoperability services will be launched in these markets sometime at the beginning of 2014.

To make interoperability possible, Alliance members, RelayHealth and participating provider sites will be using a patient-centric identity and matching approach.

The initial participating providers include Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology (Chicago, IL), Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital (Elkin, NC), Maria Parham Medical Center (Henderson, NC), Midlands Orthopaedics (Columbia, SC), and Palmetto Health (Columbia, SC).

The participating providers will do the administrative footwork to make sure the data exchange can happen. They will enroll patients into the service and manage patient consents needed to share data. They’ll also identify whether other providers have data for a patient enrolled in the network and transmit data to another provider that has consent to view that patient’s data.

Meanwhile, the Alliance members will be providing key technical services that allow providers to do the collaboration electronically, said Bob Robke, vice president of Cerner Network and a member of the Alliance’s board of directors.  CommonWell offers providers not only identity services, but a patient’s identity is established, the ability to share CCDs with other providers by querying them. (In case anyone wonders about how the service will maintain privacy, Robke notes that all clinical information sharing is peer to peer  — and that the CommonWell services don’t keep any kind of clinical data repository.)

The key to all of this is that providers will be able to share this information without having to be on a common HIE, much less be using the same EMR — though in Columbia, SC, the Alliance will be “enhancing” the capabilities of the existing local HIE by bringing acute care facility Palmetto Health, Midlands Orthopaedics and Capital City OB/GYN ambulatory practices into the mix.

It will certainly be interesting to see how well the CommonWell approach works, particularly when it’s an overlay to HIEs. Let’s see if the Alliance actually adds something different and helpful to the mix.

Hospitals Still Struggling With HIE Data Sharing

Posted on September 30, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Hospitals are trying hard to make HIEs work, but establishing robust data exchange remains a major challenge, particularly given the difficulty involved in processing paper records, a new study by HIMSS Analytics suggests.

The report, sponsored by ASG Software Solutions, draws on a survey of 157 senior hospital IT executives.

More than 70 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they participated in an HIE with other hospitals and health systems.

The thing is, the facilities reported that they’re having difficulty exchanging patient information in meaningful, powerful ways. Also, survey respondents noted that sharing information outside of HIEs is held back by budget concerns and staffing problems.

Juggling electronic and paper-based data is still a major issue, the study suggests:

* 64 percent of health information organizations reported that they shared data with nonparticipating hospitals via fax
* 63 percent of the same organizations converted faxed information into digital form via scanning
* 84 percent of respondents integrated their output/print environment directly into their EMR/HIS system
* 42 percent of survey respondents said their output/print environment was “high effort”

Unfortunately for HIE fans, coordination and management of paper records is far from the only issue standing in the way of making them work acceptably in a hospital environment.

According to a study by Chilmark Research, the focus of most HIEs is still on secure clinical messaging, which doesn’t do the job for cross-enterprise care coordination. The Chilmark research estimates that queries of databases for patient information needed at the point of care account for just 2 percent to 10 percent of HIE transactions overall.

As Chilmark CEO John Moore recently told Information Week, the problem is particularly acute in ambulatory care. Most ambulatory EMRs haven’t been able to generate CCDs that other EMRs can consume or execute queries using a record locator service. This is a pretty serious weakness in the HIE space, given that 80 percent of care takes place in ambulatory setting.

Given their importance, it’s troubling to see how many obstacles remain to robust HIE use by hospitals and physicians. Let’s hope the next 12 months see some breakthroughs.

Interoperability vs. Coordinated Care

Posted on August 19, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Andy Oram asked me the following question, “Is the exchange of continuity of care documents really interoperability or coordinated care?

As it stands now, it seems like CCDs (continuity of care documents) are going to be the backbone of what healthcare information we exchange. We’ll see if something like Common Well changes this, but for now much of the interoperability of healthcare data is in CCDs (lab and radiology data are separate). The question I think Andy is asking is what can we really accomplish with CCDs?

Transferring a CCD from one doctor to the next is definitely a form of healthcare interoperability. Regardless of the form of the CCD, it would be a huge step in the right direction for all of the healthcare endpoints to by on a system that can share documents. Whether they share CCDs or start sharing other data doesn’t really matter. That will certainly evolve over time. Just having everyone so they can share will be of tremendous value.

It’s kind of like the fax machine or email. Just getting people on the system and able to communicate was the first step. What people actually send through those channels will continue to improve over time. However, until everyone was on email, it had limited value. This is the first key step to interoperable patient records.

The second step is what information is shared. In the forseeable future I don’t seeing us ever reaching a full standard for all healthcare data. Sure, we can do a pretty good job putting together a standard for Lab results, Radiology, RXs, Allergies, Past Medical History, Diagnosis, etc. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a standard for the narrative sections of the chart. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make that information interoperable. We can, are, and will share that data between systems. It just won’t be in real granular way that many would love to see happen.

The idea of coordinated care is a much harder one. I honestly haven’t seen any systems out there that have really nailed what a coordinated care system would look like. I’ve seen very specific coordinated care elements. Maybe if we dug into Kaiser’s system we’d find some coordinated care. However, the goal of most software systems haven’t been to coordinate care and so we don’t see much on the market today that achieves this goal.

The first step in coordinating care is opening the lines of communication between care providers. Technology can really make an impact in this area. Secure text message company like docBeat (which I advise), are making good head way in opening up these lines of communications. It’s amazing the impact that a simple secure text message can have on the care a patient receives. Secure messaging will likely be the basis of all sorts of coordinated care.

The challenge is that secure messaging is just the start of care coordination. Healthcare is so far behind that secure messaging can make a big impact, but I’m certain we can create more sophisticated care coordination systems that will revolutionize healthcare. The biggest thing holding us back is that we’re missing the foundation to build out these more sophisticated models.

Let me use a simple example. My wife has been seeing a specialist recently. She’s got an appointment with her primary care doctor next week. I’ll be interested to see how much information my wife’s primary care doctor has gotten from the specialist. Have they communicated at all? Will my wife’s visit to her primary care doctor be basically my wife informing her primary care doctor about what the specialist found?

I think the answers to these questions are going to be disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is that what I described is incredibly basic care coordination. However, until the basic care coordination starts to happen we’ll never reach a more advanced level of care coordination.

Going back to Andy’s question about CCDs and care coordination. No doubt a CCD from my wife’s specialist to her primary care doctor would meet the basic care coordination I described. Although, does it provide an advanced level of care coordination? It does not. However, it does lay the foundation for advanced care coordination. What if some really powerful workflow was applied to the incoming CCD that made processing incoming CCDs easier for doctors? What if the CCD also was passed to any other doctors that might be seeing that patient based upon the results that were shared in the CCD? You can start to see how the granular data of a CCD can facilitate care coordination.

I feel like we’re on the precipice where everyone knows that we have to start sharing data. CCD is the start of that sharing, but is far from the end of how sophisticated will get at truly coordinated care.

HIEs Unable To Keep Up With User Demands

Posted on August 7, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While HIEs are expanding their offerings to include analytic and care coordination functions useful for population health management, they aren’t doing it quickly enough to meet market demand, according to a piece in Information Week.

The IW story, which outlines the conclusions of a new report from Chilmark Research, notes that the focus of most HIEs is still on secure clinical messaging, which is not adequate for cross-enterprise care coordination. The Chilmark report estimates that queries of databases for patient info needed at the point of care account for just 2 percent to 10 percent of HIE transactions overall.

Information Week also drew attention to a study appearing in Health Affairs noting that the most common functions of the 119 operational public HIEs were transmitting lab results, clinical summaries and discharge summaries. While there’s been a large increase in the number of HIEs that can exchange Continuity of Care Documents, few EMRs can integrate the data components of CCDs in to structured fields, the Health Affairs piece noted.

The problem is particularly acute in ambulatory care. As Chilmark CEO John Moore told Information Week, most ambulatory EMRs haven’t been able to generate CCDs that other EMRs can consume or do queries using a record locator service. “The value that HIEs provide to the ambulatory sector, where 80 percent of care takes place, is pretty limited,” Moore told IW.

Still, despite their weaknesses, public HIEs continue to hold onto life. For example, as various industry stats have shown, hospital CIOs increasingly see participation in an HIE as a key initiative, if nothing else because Meaningful Use will eventually demand interoperability.

But as the Chilmark study emphasizes, HIEs have a long way to go before they’re making a major contribution to patient care. And getting enough momentum to address these problems seems elusive. All told, while HIEs are clearly an important movement, getting them to the point of true usefulness could take years more.

CMS Shares Benefits Of Meaningful Use

Posted on July 23, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

CMS has released new data which lays out some of the benefits of Meaningful Use since the inception of the program in 2011.  The data outlines various ways in which Meaningful Use requirements have played out statistically.

According to the statement, the following landmarks have been reached over the last few years:

• More than 190 million electronic prescriptions have been sent by doctors, physician’s assistants and other health care providers using EMRs.

• Health care professionals sent 4.6 million patients an electronic copy of their health information from their EMRs.

• More than 13 million reminders about appointments, required tests, or check-ups were sent to patients using EMRs.

• Providers have checked drug and medication interactions to ensure patient safety more than 40 million times through the use of EMRs.

• Providers shared more than 4.3 million care summaries with other providers when patients moved between care settings.

It’s clear from these stats that e-prescribing is on a serious roll — though it’s interesting to me that over the last few years I’ve only had my scripts e-prescribed a couple of times.  Clearly there’s a lot more work to do there despite the large number.

On the other hand, these factoids aren’t staggering given that they’re cumulative over a few years. For example, while it’s encouraging that providers have shared more than 4 million care summaries (Continuity of Care Documents, I assume), that’s still a tiny fraction of the volume that we’ll need to see to say we have anything like real interoperability.

I was actually surprised to see that the reminders issued about appointments, tests and check-ups stood at a relatively modest 13 million. Primary care practices, in particular, are under such pressure to make sure patients hit their marks that you’d think setting up such reminders would be a no-brainer. But apparently it’s not.

All told, the numbers cited by CMS definitely suggest progress, but not as big of a win as the agency might have preferred. Let’s see the numbers for patient data sharing up in the hundreds of millions and then I’ll really be impressed.

Some Interesting Thoughts from the EHR Summit

Posted on November 17, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I enjoyed all day at the EHR Summit that’s being held by HBMA in Phoenix. It’s been a really interesting event for me. I had some sound bites from the Ron Sterling keynote queued up, but it’s not connecting to Twitter. So, I’ll see if I can post those tomorrow. Today, I thought I’d post some of my other tweets from the other session. I think you’ll find them interesting, enlightening, thought provoking or some other adjective. I really look forward to the discussion on this post.

EMR software has many versions of the same data. #interesting #EHRSummit11 Think about an HIE as well. They have a version of the data too

HIE’s aren’t good at getting the receiving doctor the second version of a clinical document. #interesting #EHRSummit11

Think about the records retention issues when you switch EHR software companies. Good thought. #EHRSummit11

If you haven’t lost a client to a hospital this year….you will next year. #EHRSummit11 #HBMA

How many EHR companies are billing companies? They have 7 listed on screen. Do you know of others? #EHRSummit11
They have MED3000, Allscripts, Greenway, NextGen, Athena, GE Centricity, Ingenix. Any other EHR companies do billing as well? #EHRSummit11

Shame on you if you hire an EHR Company and don’t check the references. Ask for a list of 10 in that specialty and size. #EHRSummit11

Pre-existing conditions, No lifetime maximum and kids on parents plan for longer are going to increase our insurance costs. #EHRSummit11

Definitely interesting to consider how the healthcare billing industry will be affected by things like ACO’s and concierge. #EHRSummit11

Super bills are going to go away once we get ICD-10. #EHRSummit11 #HBMA

The healthcare billing sales cycle is 12-18 months. #EHRSummit11

Since I’m putting some of my tweets. I also enjoyed a number of the tweets coming out of the ONC Meeting today. Here’s one that really hit me:

RT @INHSbeacon If you’ve seen one CCD, you’ve seen one CCD. Everyone interprets different, we need to find a standard to succeed #ONCMeeting

A Network of Networks – Major EHR Developments Per Halamka

Posted on October 18, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In my ongoing series of Major EHR Developments from John Halamka (see my previous EHR In The Cloud and Modular EHR Software posts), his third major EHR development from the Technology Review article is: A Network of Networks.

Halamka basically says:
-Most people think doctors and hospitals exchange healthcare information (they don’t)
-New standards are being integrated with EHR that will make it happen
-There won’t be one large database of health records
-Many regional data exchanges are happening
-There will be multiple Health Information Service Providers (HISPs)

I agree with most of these ideas. Although, I think it still faces two major challenges.

The first challenge is the standards challenge. Sure we have CCD. Oh wait, we have CCR. Oh wait, they merged, kind of. Oh wait, now CCD has multiple flavors. Oh wait, what kind of standard is it if there are multiple standards of the standard? I think you see my point.

The second challenge is whether HISPs and the other regional data exchanges have a viable future. I’ve talked to a lot of people about these exchanges and I have yet to hear someone clearly articulate a viable model for these exchanges. My favorite was the HIE expert who told me they’d figured out the model for HIE. So, I asked what it was and they gave me some convoluted answer that made no sense to me. Maybe I’ve just missed it, but I’d love to hear someone try to describe a viable HIE model.

I do predict we’ll see Fax slowly phase out over time. Although, I think it will more likely be replaced with a fax like service on the internet (Direct Project?) as opposed to some other sort of Data Exchange. It will probably best be described as Fax 2.0.

Are EMRs And Paper Records Incompatible?

Posted on July 15, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

I just caught a blog post by the indefatigable Fred Trotter (a high-profile Open Source guy focused on HIT) which raised an important issue.  In his article, Trotter argues credibly that once a healthcare organization implements an EMR, its records are more or less incompatible with standard paper records.

Trotter cites the troubling case of two primary care groups which, despite the using same major EMR system, can only share data by printing out massive paper transcripts of a patient’s electronic record.

Apparently, each have a custom version of the system in place, which means that the two groups couldn’t share data directly. So when a patient from Practice A moves to Practice B, Practice A’s only option is to generate what — from a photo included in the article  — looks like thousands of pages of data.

Not only are such paper printouts awkward to store and manage, they’re painfully difficult to use. While traditional handwritten records provide a familiar, and relatively concise, source of medical data, this blizzard of paper could actually bury critical information.

After all, while the data might make sense when access via the EMR’s digital templates, doctors may not know where to find what they’re looking for when confronted with the print equivalent of a massive Excel spreadsheet.

Not only that, when Practice B scans this paper monster into its system, the problem just gets worse. When caring for the patient, B’s doctors will doubtless begin entering data into their own EMR system, piling structured data on top of incompatible scanned data. How clinicians will figure out what’s up with the patient is a mystery to me.

As commentors to Trotter’s item noted, the two practices could probably have shared a summary in Continuity of Care Document format. However, unless practices are willing to make do with a summary over the long term, they’re likely to confront paper printouts for quite some time.  Not a pretty picture, is it?