Patients likely to suffer when EHR systems can't talk to each other, researcher says

As physicians look for ways EHRs can be used to improve patient care, limited access to patient data due to incompatible EHR platforms threatens those improvements, a study published in BMC Health Services Research found.

"Without interoperable systems, the full potential benefits of adopting electronic health records cannot be achieved," said Anabel Castillo, a researcher in the department of engineering and public policy at Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University. "Patient-centered treatment requires collaboration, coordination and accountability. This can only be accomplished when medical information is available for exchange."

The study examined factors that lead hospitals to adopt EHRs and how their vendor choice can affect the way patient health information is shared.

"Our findings show that the likelihood of a hospital exchanging clinical summaries with hospitals outside its health system increases as the percentage of hospitals with the same EHR vendor in the region increases," the researchers wrote.

Hospitals are significantly more likely to share information if they use the same vendor as other facilities in the region due to the ease with which systems can communicate, compared to the challenges of having one system communicate with another.

Since regulations govern how and why hospitals determine their preferred EHR vendor, and these regulations strongly influence how hospitals adopt these systems, new regulations could help make information exchanges more efficient, the researchers said.

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