Orbon Alija/Getty Images

70% of hospitals participate in healthcare interoperability

Healthcare interoperability is growing across hospitals, but gaps remain, especially in data exchange with long-term care and behavioral health providers.

While healthcare interoperability continues to grow across non-federal acute care hospitals, health information exchange gaps persist, according to an ONC data brief.

The brief explores interoperability among non-federal acute care hospitals, focusing on hospitals' frequency of participating in four domains of interoperable exchange that ONC has tracked for several years: find, send, receive and integrate.

From 2018 to 2023, the share of hospitals that reported at least sometimes engaging in interoperability across all four domains increased from 46 to 70%. Additionally, from 2018 to 2023, hospitals routinely engaging in interoperable exchange increased by 54 percent.

Larger, urban, system-affiliated hospitals exhibited higher engagement in routine interoperability than smaller, rural and independent hospitals. Over half (53%) of large hospitals often or routinely participated in interoperable data exchange, compared to 38% of small hospitals.

Hospitals that routinely engaged in interoperability reported higher availability and use of patient health information at the point of care, highlighting the importance of routine interoperability for clinical decision support.

Overall, in 2023, 71% of hospitals routinely had electronic access to necessary clinical information from external organizations at the point of care, and 42% of hospitals often used that information.

Hospitals that routinely engaged in interoperable health information exchange across all four domains had higher rates of patient health information availability (92%) and use at the point of care (70%) compared to those that were only sometimes or not engaged in interoperable exchange.

However, only 42% of hospitals reported that they send summary of care documents to most or all external hospitals, and 38% reported that they send that information to most or all external ambulatory care providers.

Additionally, only about a quarter of hospitals that were routinely interoperable across all domains sent electronic summary of care records to most or all external long-term post-acute care (LTPAC) and behavioral health providers.

Rates of summary of care record exchange with these providers were even lower among hospitals that reported sometimes engaging in interoperability across the four domains.

The data brief suggested that differences in data exchange with external providers likely indicate limited exchange capabilities of LTPAC and behavioral health providers. Additionally, ONC noted that hospitals may be largely focused on exchange with their main data partners, which are likely other hospitals and ambulatory care providers.

Initiatives like the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), which aim to minimize barriers to data exchange, are expected to help address interoperability gaps, the data brief noted.

Hannah Nelson has been covering news related to health information technology and health data interoperability since 2020.

Dig Deeper on Interoperability in healthcare

Cloud Computing
Mobile Computing