EHR Interoperability and Patient-Centered Care

February 6, 2018

Image of a screen showing an EHR, with "Medical record" written on top of the page.In 2009, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to modernize the U.S. healthcare system through the implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), software systems that create a digital version of a patient’s medical chart. HITECH incentives accelerated widespread adoption of EHRs. However, the ability to exchange information between different EHRs across various healthcare settings — known as interoperability — was not a key requirement when the digital systems were first developed. Eight years later, EHRs are in place at almost 80 percent of physician offices and doctors are increasingly reporting that interoperability is important. Data from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) Michigan Physician Survey shows primary care physicians (PCPs) consider interoperability an important feature for providing patient-centered care.

Our data show a significant change in just two years in the perception among PCPs of the value an EHR with interoperability can play in patient care. In 2014 and 2016, CHRT’s Michigan Physician Survey asked PCPs how important having an EHR with interoperability was to their ability to deliver patient-centered care. Significantly greater proportions of PCPs in 2016 said it was “very important” to have EHRs that are interoperable between hospitals and practices, and practice to practice. There was no significant change in the proportion of physicians who saw just having an EHR in their own practice as “very important.”