Health leaders will need to focus on four areas to improve interoperability in healthcare, including providing the business case, improving infrastructure, fortifying policies and regulations and collaborating on measurements and improvements, the Bipartisan Policy Center and Healthcare Leadership Council said in a new joint report.
The two Washington-based think tanks said the priority areas are "bringing information to the point of care to support care delivery and meeting the information needs of individuals to support their health and healthcare."
The report showed some improvements in capability, highlighting acute care hospitals with improved IT performance over the past five years. In fact, 90% of hospitals and 48% of office-based physicians share information electronically outside of their organizations.
The report echoed other studies and comments from industry leaders. Healthcare officials agree interoperability is needed, but how to get there is the issue.
The patient information now sits in multiple locations, such as physician offices, hospitals, pharmacies, payers and with the patients themselves. Improving health IT and data sharing to coordinate that information so it's accessible to other silos and at the point of care can help improve clinical decision-making.
The report pointed to the 21st Century Cures Act and new rules surrounding electronic health information as positive developments. HHS proposed almost 1,000 pages of rules recently that look to improve interoperability and care coordination.
The new HHS plan would make some payers offer patients free electronic access to medical records. It would also nudge the industry to adopt standard application programming interfaces.
Of course, one healthcare silo can't resolve the IT problem alone. It's going to take multiple stakeholders, including providers, hospitals, payers and policymakers. Aligning incentives among payers and providers and between providers and technology partners are critical pieces of this. All of these players will also have to engage patients, the groups said.
Beyond those connections, the industry needs to agree to baseline standards to improve patient matching, prioritize interoperability and standards conformance in Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT certification and adopt FHIR-based APIs, they added.