New Agreement on Tech Specification for EHRs to Improve Sharing of Patient Data

November 17, 2011

States, vendors agree to standardize EHRs so data can be ‘very quickly’ accessed no matter where a patient receives care.

A group of seven states and eight EHR vendors have agreed on a set of technical specifications intended to standardize EHRs so that data may be easily shared across health information exchanges (HIEs). 

The EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup, the organization which posted this news last week, said the agreement is a big step toward defining a single state of standardized, easy-to-implement connections to increase the adoption of EHRs and HIE services - and remove impediments that make it difficult for EHRs and HIEs to connect. The new specification is based on existing published standards for interoperability from the Office of the National Coordinator, according to the workgroup.

States involved in the workgroup, originally formed by the New York eHealth Collaborative, include California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon. EHR vendors in the workgroup include Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, e-MDs, Greenway, McKesson Physician Practice Solutions, NextGen Healthcare, Sage Healthcare Division, and Siemens Healthcare.

So what does this collaboration - and ultimately, EHR interoperability - mean to practices like yours?

For starters, practices will be able to easily exchange and access patient data regardless of which EHRs their neighboring healthcare organizations are using, David Whitlinger, director of the New York e-Health Collaborative, told Physicians Practice. This, in turn, means improved efficiencies and better patient care.

So, for example, in a world where EHRs are compatible and data flows in an HIE, if someone shows up unconscious in an ER, a physician could “very quickly establish the patient’s prior and existing conditions,” Whitlinger told Physicians Practice. By knowing quickly if the patient is, say, diabetic or allergic to penicillin, a physician can provide the most successful treatment plan much faster than had they not had electronic data readily available.

According to Whitlinger, the next step for vendors is to incorporate these agreed-upon specifications into their new product releases, many of which are expected to roll out in 2012.

Bob Barker, manager of interoperability and standards for NextGen Healthcare, told Physicians Practice the development is a “huge deal” for providers.

“From a technical standpoint, having the ability to integrate into each of the other’s workflow,  whether they’re using NextGen or Siemens, allows them to practice medicine regardless of the technology they use,” said Barker.

 

Healthcare consultant Bruce Kleaveland told Physicians Practice the news is promising.

“It is going to be more important to share information via a health information exchange since practices will be expected to have information about patients regardless of where the patient generated the information,” said Kleaveland. “It will also help practices do a better job, since they will have more complete info with fewer gaps.”