Segment 7: The Importance of Interoperable EHRs in Care Quality

From a health plan perspective, the key to effectively using electronic health records, or EHRs, is to leverage the infrastructure in a manner that takes the burden away from the physician and his or her practice, said Jennifer Malin, MD, staff vice president, Clinical Strategy, Anthem. In a panel discussion with Linda Bosserman, MD, assistant clinical professor and staff physician, City of Hope, and Jason C. Goldwater, MA, MPA, senior director, National Quality Forum, Dr Malin discussed the importance of collecting this crucial data from EHR’s in order to assess patient outcomes and the use of medications.
Dr Malin explained that the current system for collecting and sharing data needs to be more automated, with a 2-way exchange of data. This would save the time that administrative staff currently might be spending on entering patient data into a web portal.
“And ideally, we want the world where all these systems are interoperable, not only so we can measure quality but also because we could make healthcare more efficient,” said Dr Malin.  
A barrier to an interoperable data sharing system is the way various practices are designed. Dr Malin said that some practices can have upwards of 30 oncologists, others just 1 on-staff nurse, and a handful of them still use paper health records. She suggested that in order to make data sharing both easier and more commonly used, a solution that bridges all of these different practice settings will be important moving forward. Additionally, various EHR systems have field types that can specify data differently and require that the physician put in extra time to fill in the blanks, taking time away from patient care. As a result, some of the more useful fields may not even get filled in and therefore take away from the potential an EHR can have in measuring the quality of care of patients.
Dr Malin said that while selective EHRs have proven to be very valuable tools for quality measurement, more practices need to participate to enable a sharing system. “From a health plan perspective, if we want it across all of our providers so that we can tell our members about the care that they’re getting, we need it on everyone, not just the practices that choose to participate,” she added.
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