Viewpoint: Coronavirus pandemic may accelerate interoperability between EHRs

The lack of interoperability among EHRs can be potentially deadly for some senior patients with comorbidities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent op-ed published in MIT Management.

The March 30 op-ed, written by Dartmouth College professor Geoffrey Parker, University of Texas professor Edward Anderson, and Texas e-Health Alliance executive director Nora Belcher, explains that the difficult nature of transferring patient diagnosis and treatment data from incompatible EHR systems for telehealth appointments could have negative effects on older patients.  

"This limitation could endanger millions of senior patients with comorbidities, such as diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema, who are particularly at risk of coronavirus because telehealth providers can't get direct access to their medical data," the co-authors wrote.

While the authors wrote that it may be too late to resolve the lack of data interoperability during the coronavirus pandemic, there is hope for change through HHS' recently published final interoperability rules. The regulations, issued by ONC and CMS, would require the health IT industry to adopt standard application programming interfaces to give patients more control over access to their electronic health data.   

The current pandemic highlights the "potentially deadly implications" of the lack of interoperability of EHRs and the need for a shift to open data platforms, the authors wrote.

"However, for this vision of innovation and data exchange to be realized, governing bodies (including the federal government itself) must require that all [EHRs], no matter their brand, work with one another, and, specifically, that tools like Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources APIs be deployed across the industry," the authors concluded.


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