HIT Interoperability Remains a Challenge for ACOs

Poor interoperability across health information technology systems is preventing accountable care organizations from using the technology to improve clinical quality.

Poor interoperability across health information technology (HIT) systems is preventing accountable care organizations (ACOs) from using the technology to improve clinical quality, according to a new survey from Premier, Inc, and the eHealth Initiative.

All of the respondents said that access to data from external organizations was challenging, and 88% of ACOs face significant obstacles integrating data from disparate sources. According to the results of the survey, 95% of organizations said interoperability of disparate systems is a significant challenge and the problem could be inhibiting ACOs from exchanging data to the best of their abilities.

“While accountable care organizations are providing quality care for many patients, even more could be accomplished if interoperability issues were addressed,” Jennifer Covich Bordenick, chief executive officer of the eHealth Initiative, said in a statement. “However, the cost of interoperability can be prohibitive for many organizations.”

While the ACOs have reported that using HIT has improved clinical quality (66%), preventive screenings and vaccinations (63%), chronic disease management (59%), and health outcomes (55%), at least 90% of respondents admitted that the cost and return on investment of HIT is a key barrier to further implementations.

Core HIT components include an electronic health record (86% of respondents), a disease registry (74%), a data warehouse (68%), and a clinical decision support system (58%). The majority of survey respondents reported having an infrastructure in place that supports quality measurement, population health management, and physician payment and contract adjudication.

“Even when ACOs have successfully adopted and merged HIT systems, they aren’t able to effectively leverage data and analytics to derive value out of their investments, given the pervasive issues with data quality, liquidity and access, as well as issues with integrating data from disparate sources,” Keith J. Figlioli, Premier’s senior vice president of healthcare informatics and member of the Office of the National Coordinator’s Health IT Standards Committee, said in a statement.

While most ACOs report advanced deployment of patient-facing tools that improve efficiency, few reported patient-facing tools that increase access to care, and even fewer offer self-management tools to patients.