Fifteen years after President George W. Bush launched a nationwide campaign to computerize healthcare and give everyone access to their electronic health records (EHRs), the industry is finally starting to achieve some degree of interoperability among EHRs and other health IT systems. But much of the data is still locked up in documents, and the ability of healthcare providers to access discrete data from outside sources at the point of care remains limited.
The reason interoperability between computer systems is so difficult in health care—and the reason it’s so badly needed—is that health care is extremely fragmented. There are many different kinds of healthcare providers, including hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and urgent care centers, and they use many different types of EHRs. Health insurers use an array of other systems. Interfaces are expensive to build and difficult to maintain, and they don’t allow searches across networks.
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