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It’s time for everyone to stop talking interoperability and actually achieve it


It’s time for healthcare to learn from other industries and make solutions for physicians available at the touch of a button

In 2009, the HITECH Act formally brought electronic health records (EHRs) into healthcare with the promise of a better way to collect and share patient data. No more reams of paper in frayed manila folders housed in a metal prison of filing cabinets. Doctors would be free to call up information at a moment’s notice and use technology to truly improve patient care.


Further reading: Why are doctors still waiting for interoperability?


Nearly a decade later, the metal prison has been replaced with an electronic one: Patient files are trapped behind a laptop or tablet screen exclusive to the EHR where they originated and “data blocking” is now the solitary confinement of meaningful patient information.

EHRs were intended to improve communications, but have instead separated doctors from their patients. 

Interoperability, the long-promised concept that there would be readily available information about a patient no matter the practice, hospital or medical facility the patient visited across the globe, is still not a reality. 

In banking, I can use any ATM anywhere and it will know me and my account balances. In retail, I can search for virtually any product available for sale in the world and get it delivered to my door in two days. In travel, I can use a third-party system to scan hundreds of flights, hotels and rental cars in one sitting for the best deal. I stay stationary and the information comes to me easily and in a manner I can work with.


Popular on our site: Health IT creates lose-lose situation for physicians


Yet in healthcare, I still need to fill out the same paperwork about myself, my insurance and my medical history no matter where I go. And at the end of it all, ask that my records be sent (likely via fax) to my primary care provider who will likely scan it as a PDF file and attach it to my electronic health record, rendering it unsearchable and largely irrelevant. And did I mention it will probably be 30 pages long with its true purpose buried on page 23 in fewer than 10 words?

Next: 'To call this system inefficient is an oversimplification'


To call this system inefficient is an oversimplification. To call it frustrating for physicians nationwide would be a gross understatement. 


In case you missed it: How to protect your practice when data breach hits a partner


It’s time for healthcare to learn from other industries and make solutions for physicians available at the touch of a button: namely, an app. In this issue, we’ll tell you more about this evolution, but the main point is that until vendors and developers allow innovative plug-ins (and not just the ones only they can offer) into their systems, EHRs will always remain “meaningful use machines” and nothing more. 

EHR developers have had nearly a decade to innovate and they haven’t. It’s time to let some fresh minds-including their customer base of physicians-take a crack at innovations to make patient records available everywhere and truly mobile across any and all platforms.

It’s 2017. If I can have a driverless car deliver the pizza I ordered on my phone, then physicians should be able to get life-saving information just as easily. 


Keith L. Martin is editorial director of Medical Economics. Follow him on Twitter at @klmartin_ubm. Do you think interoperability is achievable? Tell us at medec@ubm.com.

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