ONC to Congress: EHR adoption is high, but barriers to interoperability remain

Hospitals continue to struggle with data sharing, despite increased electronic documentation of patient health information, according to a report prepared by the ONC.

The ONC filed the 22-page report to Congress as a year-end summary on nationwide trends in health information exchange in 2018, including the adoption of EHRs and other technologies that support electronic access to patient information.

"HHS is committed to the use of health IT to support the free flow of health information for patients, healthcare providers and payers as well as to promote competition in healthcare markets," the report reads. "Seamless data flow will also accelerate progress on a range of national health priorities that include combating the opioid epidemic, spurring clinical innovation and accelerating science."

The ONC said the majority of U.S. patients now have their health data recorded electronically, with 96 percent of non-federal acute-care hospitals using certified health IT systems. However, hospitals are often unable to share this information with other healthcare facilities.

A few of the challenges outlined in the report include technical barriers that limit data-sharing functions, financial barriers related to the cost of implementing data-sharing practices, and "trust barriers" — such as beliefs that restricting access to patient data will help the facility maintain a competitive advantage.

Moving forward, the ONC suggested healthcare leaders: (1) upgrade the technical capabilities of health IT, (2) increase transparency in data-sharing practices and (3) reduce documentation burden on clinicians. The agency said these overarching recommendations will help to accelerate its vision for nationwide data-sharing capabilities in healthcare.

To download the ONC's report, click here.

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