As a practicing ear, nose and throat specialist in Ahoskie, N.C., Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot says that little has frustrated him more than the digital record system he installed a few years ago.
The problem: His system, made by one company, cannot share patient records with the local medical center, which uses a program made by another company.
The two companies are quick to deny responsibility, each blaming the other.
Regardless of who is at fault, doctors and hospital executives across the country say they are distressed that the expensive electronic health record systems they installed in the hopes of reducing costs and improving the coordination of patient care — a major goal of the Affordable Care Act — simply do not share information with competing systems.
The issue is especially critical now as many hospitals and doctors scramble to install the latest versions of their digital record systems to demonstrate to regulators starting Wednesday that they can share some patient data. Those who cannot will face reductions in Medicare reimbursements down the road.
On top of that, leading companies in the industry are preparing to bid on a Defense Department contract valued at an estimated $11 billion. A primary requirement is that the winning vendor must be able to share information, allowing the department to digitally track the medical care of 9.6 million beneficiaries around the globe.
The contract is the latest boon to an industry that taxpayers have heavily subsidized in recent years with over $24 billion in incentive payments to help install electronic health records in hospitals and physicians’ offices.
While most providers have installed some kind of electronic record system, two recent studies have found that fewer than half of the nation’s hospitals can transmit a patient care document, while only 14 percent of physicians can exchange patient data with outside hospitals or other providers.
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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President