The idea behind electronic health records (EHR) was to make the process of accessing and updating patient health data a relatively seamless effort.

Unfortunately, not only does using today’s EHR systems require considerable effort — 71% of physicians say it is a major cause of burnout — but the lack of interoperability between different EHR platforms on the market is a barrier to the efficiency EHR was supposed to champion.

As of May 2018, there were 16 different EHR platforms in use by 571,045 healthcare providers.

In order to sufficiently access patient data (e.g., during hand-offs between different clinics), it’s common to see hospitals use multiple EHR systems. According to a study by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), most hospitals in the US use at least 10 EHRs.

Why EHR Communication is a Must

There are multiple facets to this issue.

First, EHR interoperability is key to reducing physician burnout and freeing up their time to care for patients.

Be it the learning curve of using one EHR system (much less 10+) or the time spent updating patient information, interpreting data, and other tasks, the inability of a hospital’s multiple EHR systems to work with another is unnecessary friction.


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In fact, according to a Stanford Medicine survey, 70% of physicians agreed that supporting EHR interoperability would be beneficial for the profession.

Second, the lack of EHR interoperability makes life difficult for patients, too. If hospitals are unable to accurately glean patient information — or spend disproportionate amounts of time and energy to get that information — the quality of care will suffer.

Instead, EHR interoperability works to put the patient at the “center of the universe” by ensuring that their data is readily available across different systems (and, by consequence, providers).


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Major EHR Interoperability Challenges

Technically, each EHR platform operates on its own architecture and standards. Even with some regulatory encouragement, it’s the vendors that must spearhead interoperability.

However, even if these vendors work for it, questions remain over the common standards and formats that would enable different EHR platforms to interoperate.

Fortunately, it appears that progress is being made.

In November 2018, the CommonWell Health Alliance rolled out the Carequality Framework to its members. The Carequality Framework will enable the Alliance’s members to readily share information between their respective EHR systems.

Once the roll-out is complete, it’s expected that 80% of doctors nationwide will be able to share patient data. However, since this involves the sharing of Continuity of Care Documents (CCD), this is merely a first (albeit major) step.

True North equips healthcare providers with cloud and hybrid EHR hosting solutions that — by keeping patient data secure — will enable providers to readily meet their HIPAA obligations and provide quality care. Speak to us today to see get started.