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Health Data Exchange Falling Short of Patient Expectations

Ninety-seven percent of patients say health data exchange between provider is key to quality healthcare.

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Source: Thinkstock

- Patients think health data access between multiple disparate providers is critical to quality healthcare, according to a recent survey, but that reality is not yet realized.

The survey, conducted by Humana subsidiary Transcend Insights, found that 97 percent of patients want for healthcare organizations of any location or specialty to have access to their full patient records.

According to 87 percent of the survey’s nearly 2,600 respondents, this access is especially important for primary care providers.

Ninety-three percent of patients said that provider data access was paramount to personalized care, and 92 percent said patient data access was also important to personalized care.

In addition to doctor-to-doctor HIE, patients also value providers being able to access their own patient-generated health data. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported using mHealth and other health IT to support their self-management efforts, and 71 percent considered the ability of providers to access the data gleaned from those tools to be vital.

According to the survey, patients value extensive health data access as a means of ensuring better quality care. Thirty-eight percent of patient respondents had full faith in providers who have full access to patient medical records; only 27 percent of patients said the same about providers who do not have full access to patient medical records.

According to survey administrators, healthcare organizations are falling short of patient expectations. Although 71 percent of patients reported that they think their providers can already seamlessly access all of their health data, survey administrators say that may be because patients are giving their providers “the benefit of the doubt.” In reality, only about a quarter of hospitals are able to functionally exchange health data with disparate providers, the survey found.

Statistics from the ONC paints a slightly different picture, although it still shows some room for improvement. As of 2015, 85 percent of hospitals could send patient care summaries to other providers, and 65 percent of hospitals could receive that data. However, only 38 percent of hospitals used exchanged patient health data.

The survey suggests that the healthcare industry is falling short of patient expectations in having not yet achieve the technological advances necessary for enabling strong health information exchange. While health IT experts are working toward better data exchange advancements, the survey indicates that it is not yet possible to exchange data at the rate patients expect.

“While the healthcare industry has undergone rapid digitization in the last decade, effectively sharing medical information and communicating across many different healthcare information technology systems – often referred to as interoperability – has remained elusive,” the report stated.

According to Transcend Insights CMO Thomas J. Van Gilder, MD, JD, MPH, these survey findings should motivate industry professionals to work faster toward achieving better patient health data exchange. Clear patient preference for providers who can exchange health data should serve as a concrete impetus for health IT experts to develop stronger health data exchange capabilities.

“As an industry, the time has come to move beyond viewing interoperability as a philosophical challenge or a problem that we’ll eventually get our arms around,” said Van Gilder, who is also the Vice President of Informatics and Analytics at Transcend Insights.

“This survey shows us that patients see strong information sharing as an essential element of high-quality care. It’s time that we live up to those expectations by giving care providers and health care systems the tools they need to stay connected around patient care.”

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