How to Ensure Your EHR Achieves Interoperability

EHR interoperability continues to be a point of contention in the United States, particularly with lawmakers. In December 2014, Congress passed the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill which allows ONC to decertify products that do not permit patient information sharing as outlined in Meaningful Use. A second bill was recently introduced in Congress, again with the goal of putting pressure of healthcare providers to meet interoperability standards. The bill outlines three EHR qualifications:

1. Allowing authorized users complete, open access to all of a patient’s data within an EHR

2. Prohibiting the need for multiple interfaces by providing authorized users with needed information through one location

3. And allowing users to share information with other EHR systems

What steps can your practice take during EHR selection and implementation to meet these requirements?

Test EHR Across Departments

Not every EHR is created equally, as evidenced by the different bills moving through Congress. Your practice should test the waters: find 2-3 EHR vendors that meet your requirements and test them out. Obviously, having the entire practice test the system is impractical. Instead, you should conduct the test with a member of each department (a nurse, a front office administrator, a biller, etc.).

This process will provide insight into whether the EHR in question will allow complete access to different users, prohibit different interfaces in different departments, or allow your office to share information with another EHR system. Testing different EHR systems will also give you an insight into how the system fits with your existing practice workflow.

Perform a Multi-Step EHR Implementation

One important step to take during EHR selection and implementation is to ensure your chosen vendor can provide adequate support and training during each step of the EHR implementation. Multiple testing and training phases lead to a positive EHR implementation experience, so make sure your practice and your chosen EHR vendor are prepared for all steps of the process, from pilot testing, to training, to mock go-lives.

Multiple testing and training phases lead to a positive EHR implementation experience

The goal during these phases is to establish processes which will meet EHR interoperability requirements including being able to share patient information. If your practice cannot migrate data from your previous system or your paper charts easily, then the tested EHR misses the mark.

It is also important to test your EHR by sending information to another practice’s EHR, or perhaps to a pharmacy, to ensure that the EHR allows the sharing of patient data in a secure manner. Remember, although your practice is trying to meet new requirements, HIPAA is still law and PHI and PII must be protected.

Examine Data Access Across Departments

Finally, can different users from different departments access the same information from one place or must they move around a practice or use other HIT systems? Implementation is the time to test these areas and work with the vendor to correct the problems or tailor the user roles or interfaces to meet your practice’s needs.

Do not settle for less than your current or future requirements of EHR. Anticipate the strictest regulations to keep your practice ahead of Congressional changes in EHR interoperability requirements; doing so will prevent possible expense in the future.

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Samantha Williams

About the author…

Samantha Williams’ EHR expertise stems from three years of medical billing for a large physician practice in New York City. She trains new hires to use a medical billing and EHR system and writes appeals for denied neurosurgical procedures, resulting in additional insurance payment.

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Samantha Williams