Report: Majority of Top Health Systems are Spending More on Interoperability This Year

More than half of technology leaders at the country’s top health systems said they’re investing more money into interoperability initiatives in 2023 than they did last year, according to a recent report from healthcare interoperability software provider Health Gorilla.

Health Gorilla surveyed 40 chief information officers and chief medical information officers at the top 50 U.S. health systems by net patient revenue. A full 55% of them said they will increase their organization’s investment in interoperability initiatives by 5-20% in 2023 compared to 2022, and 2% of executives said they will increase that spend by 20% or higher. No one said their year-over-year spend on interoperability initiatives would decrease, but 43% said it would stay roughly the same.

Participating in health information exchanges is a key way that health systems strengthen their interoperability strategy. The primary reason that health systems join health information exchanges is to help their providers get data more quickly and improve care quality, the report said.

Having access to more patient data can improve patient care in a number of ways, according to the survey respondents. They said that more data means more information to inform patient visits. Hospitals can also use this data to analyze the chronic disease burden across their facility or learn more about a particular patient population. Additionally, hospitals use data from health information exchanges to identify patients who may be due for care.

Aside from the opportunity to improve patient care, health systems also participate in health information exchanges to maintain a competitive advantage in their markets, form data sharing partnerships with other providers and retain clinicians by decreasing their administrative burden, the CIOs and CMIOs said.

The last two reasons these leaders cited as to why health systems join health information exchanges are cost reduction and increased reimbursement. Participation in exchanges and compliance with HHS’ Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) can help health systems lower costs associated with retrieving medical data from other organizations and prepare for CMS incentives that could reward TEFCA exchange, the report said.

Currently, only a quarter of health systems comply with the TEFCA’s technical standards. However, two-thirds are working toward that objective. This is because TEFCA exchange could become an important factor determining Medicare reimbursement in the future, according to the report.

More than half (55%) of respondents found the data they received through health information exchanges to be reasonably or extremely useful for providing care or for analytical purposes. However, many respondents acknowledged there is still room for improvement when it comes to data quality, saying they still see duplicative, incomplete or junk data in these exchanges.

Dave Cassel, senior vice president of operations at Health Gorilla, argued that the healthcare sector must improve its data quality in order for health systems to get the most out of exchanges.

“As an industry, we clearly have work to do on data quality. Ironically, the more progress we make on interoperability, the more duplicative data we will need to deal with, as all record sources for a particular patient will converge on a shared understanding of that patient’s history. Interoperability services must be able to sift through this duplication in order to make data meaningful, rather than just passing duplication along to the user,” he said in an emailed statement.

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