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Interoperability

Meeting a higher interoperability standard in 2023

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Independent physicians, electronic health record (EHR) developers and vendors, and information technology (IT) professionals will need to ensure that EHR software is updated to meet new standards in the coming year. Understanding rules and regulations regarding what type of information patients can access and when, in particular, will be critical for meeting a higher interoperability standard in 2023.

The 21st Century Cures Act pushes for interoperability between providers and between providers and patients. The United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI), adopted as a standard in the ONC Cures Act Final Rule, sets a foundation for broader sharing of electronic health information to support patient care. Overall, the Cures Act, which encourages ambitious research and data-collection initiatives, attempts to harness the “collective data-gathering power for medical good,” according to many healthcare experts.

However, there are concerns among healthcare providers about one of the provisions, the prohibition against information blocking that is referred to as the “open notes” provision. The provision requires that patients be able to access the information in their EHR “without delay.” Patients will also be able to view task notes input by staff members in addition to their provider’s clinical notes. A task note might include instructions for a staff member or the provider to return a patient phone call, for example.

In fact, the “open notes” requirements mean that patients will have access to virtually all of their health information available through the EHR. Patients feel this will help with patient-physician communication. The provision puts everyone on the same page, reducing the patient’s anxiety. They will be less likely to constantly call the office asking for updates. Patients will be better prepared for their visits and be equipped with the knowledge necessary to be more engaged in their own care between visits.

EHR interoperability has been a goal for some time. By 2023, EHRs must meet a higher standard under the Cures Act than many are prepared for in regard to the current state of their EHR software. EHRs will be required to safely exchange personal health information (PHI) with other EHRs as well as with third-party applications, including patient-facing systems and enterprise systems.

While some providers view the new requirement as potentially causing more administrative burden for them, the ability for patients to access their own healthcare information seamlessly has been found to actually decrease the number of emails and phone calls. In-office visit times are also reduced, as patients have been able to review and understand their care details prior to their appointment.

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Healthcare providers will need to transition digitally by 2023. This means that most, if not all, patient records and documents should be online, and patients should have access to all of their information, ranging anywhere from appointment dates to notes nurses have left about calling the patient back. Essentially, patients should be able to access all of their test results, recommendations, findings, and office task notes.

While some doctors view the new requirements as challenging and some providers are considering retirement by 2023 before this all goes into place, other doctors are saying it actually makes their job easier. From their point of view as well as their patients’, if all of the information is accessible to patients 24/7, it leaves very little room for question. It allows patients to be more proactive in their own care. It also allows physicians to provide quality care to their patients rather than constantly responding to questions that can be answered with more accessibility.

For those independent practices that get on board with the new interoperability requirements, there is the potential to actually increase their patient panel as well as possibly their practice success rate. It could also improve their patient-physician relationships as there will be less confusion and frustration. N