Exchanging electronic health records (EHRs) across state lines is a complicated process that has yet to be fully standardized, much less perfected. Differing laws and a lack of data standards, among other obstacles, have made it difficult for states to achieve HIE interoperability.
To help move things forward, a multi-state HIE interoperability workgroup is focusing on ways to overcome common barriers to exchange, including the significant expenditures involved in developing connections between EHRs and HIEs . The lack of standards in building health information exchanges means EHR vendors have to develop custom connections for every new instance of an HIE, introducing additional costs into the health care system. One of the goals of implementing health IT is, of course, to reduce costs — not add to them.
The workgroup believes that, through a collaborative process, existing standards could be leveraged to create a set of plug-and-play standards for connecting EHRs to HIEs, reducing the need for customization. The goal of the workgroup is to “create an integrated marketplace of EHR capabilities in which the interfaces between EHRs and HIEs are standardized across multiple states.”
Workgroup members include 11 states, representing 41% of the U.S. patient population, along with eight well-known EHR vendors, which have agreed to develop specifications based on existing standards. The organizations will prioritize work on the following capabilities:
- Send and receive patient records;
- Query and retrieve patient records;
- Import initial patient history;
- Medication history lookup;
- Public health and quality reporting; and
- Insurance eligibility check.
Building a national network of health information exchange won’t happen overnight. But this type of mult-state collaborative effort could be a good stepping stone toward achieving the goal of nationwide HIE.