ACC Statement Stresses Importance of EHR Interoperability

Participating in Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) – a unique collaboration of health care professionals and industry focused on improving the way computer systems in health care share information – is crucial to achieving electronic health record (EHR) interoperability, according to a new ACC health policy statement published Aug. 15 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, developed in conjunction with the American Society of Echocardiography, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, Heart Rhythm Society and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.

“The lack of interoperability of health information technology (IT) prevents the field of health care from realizing the full potential of the Information Age that has revolutionized so many fields of human endeavor,” write John R. Windle, MD, FACC, chair of the writing committee and a member of ACC’s Informatics and Health IT Taskforce, and co-authors. “Using internationally recognized standards, IHE provides a construct to create the technical frameworks to exchange health care data while maintaining the granular syntactic and semantic attributes needed to accommodate the needs of the diverse consumers of health care information,” they add. Given the complexity of achieving interoperability, the statement stresses the importance of stakeholders – including medical societies, government agencies and vendors – coming together to share best practices and work towards standardization.

Interoperability describes how effectively clinical data can move between different participants, both human and technological, in the care delivery chain. The authors explain that while achieving interoperability is important for everyone involved in health care, it impacts different groups in different ways. Clinicians and ACC members could see data flowing from outside and within their institutions, increasing the communication necessary to deliver complex care to growing number of people. C-suite leaders can benefit from interoperability by driving down long-term costs using open source solutions to prevent data blocking and limit the expensive interfaces required to move data between clinical silos, eventually breaking down the walls between specialties. For patients, interoperability ensures access to an individual’s complete medical record. The authors further explain that this is increasingly important since various clinicians and facilities often contribute to a patient’s medical record and a large amount of clinical data can make it difficult to keep track of what has been done where. 

“The ACC believes that meaningful interoperability of data, agnostic of proprietary vendor formatting, is crucial for optimal patient care as well as the many associated activities necessary to support a robust and transparent health care delivery system. IHE serves a unique role and fills a critical gap in pursuit of this goal,” the statement concludes.

As such, the College has worked with device vendors, medical societies and clinical facilities to develop 14 IHE profiles for cardiology that have been tested and validated at the annual IHE Connectathon testing event.

Moving forward, the writing committee hopes this health policy statement will help members of the C-suite as well as clinical leadership navigate interoperability and leverage IHE to connect various parts of the clinical workflow into a cohesive whole.  

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Keywords: Angiography, Computer Systems, Cooperative Behavior, Delivery of Health Care, Echocardiography, Electronic Health Records, Government Agencies, Health Policy, Medical Informatics, Patient Care, Societies, Medical, Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications

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