For an idea of the scope of what it takes to make interoperability a reality, consider these numbers from just one EHR vendor, Cerner: 536 million transactions per month through 275 connected information systems (80 percent of which are non-Cerner) and interaction with 160 health information exchanges.
Despite these numbers, experts at the 2018 Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference say the industry is closing in on making interoperability possible for everyone.
“Health data should be available to individuals and providers no matter where care occurs,” said Jitin Asnaani, executive director of the CommonWell Health Alliance, an industry group dedicated to interoperability. CommonWell sees a future where patients are at the center of all information exchange with a unique identifier that can be used nationally to access individual health records. The organization does not store any health data; it just acts as a facilitator to connect providers to the patient data they are looking for regardless of what health system or EHR houses the data.
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This concept is not theory. The organization already has 25 million patients enrolled and is adding one million more each month. “This is very much a live network,” said Asnaani. CommonWell is also collaborating with other organizations with an interoperability focus, such as the CareQuality Interoperability Framework, which includes EHR vendors like Epic and athenahealth. This collaboration should result in accessibility of records from across those networks by this summer, said Asnaani. Regardless of which network a provider is using, the physician will be able to access patient records from the other.
The confusion for physicians is often where to connect for the best access to patient data, said Asnaani. The recent announcement of a draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) by HHS will go a long way toward solving this issue. It will allow various health exchanges to link together and provide the broad access providers have been looking for, he said.