WASHINGTON — A little-known but major challenge facing modern medicine is a lack of interoperability, i.e., the ability to effectively share clinical data, and especially clinical test results, between different health care organizations. In an effort to solve this issue, AACC has recently released a position statement that urges HHS to fund interoperability pilot programs and incentivize their adoption, which would vastly improve the quality of care patients receive.
The widespread implementation of electronic health records has made it much easier for health care institutions to record patient test results, access this data, and use it to make better-informed clinical care decisions. Surprisingly, sharing this data between organizations is still difficult.
For example, if a patient switches providers, the two providers might use different laboratory instruments, laboratory information systems, and electronic health record systems that don’t generate or capture the same information and/or that don’t transmit the information in a standardized format— giving room for errors to be easily introduced during patient data transfer. This lack of interoperability has wide-ranging consequences and is a hindrance not only to patient safety and care but also to public health initiatives and research aimed at developing new tests and treatments.
AACC’s recommendations to HHS
To facilitate data sharing amongst health care organizations, AACC calls on HHS to implement programs and policies that promote interoperability. To start, AACC recommends that HHS fund pilot programs that support interoperability and assess its impact on the quality of care and on clinical laboratories.
Because achieving interoperability is such a complex undertaking, HHS should incentivize laboratory medicine professionals, health care providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders to collaborate on establishing and adopting common data use practices and standards. HHS should also deliver financial incentives through value-based reimbursement programs, which could pay health care institutions for meeting certain interoperability performance requirements.
Separately, AACC urges Congress to continue to support the harmonization (also known as standardization) of clinical laboratory test results, as this is crucial to ensuring that test results can be aggregated and compared no matter where or when they’re performed.
“Laboratory medicine professionals are an integral part of the health care data ecosystem,” said Shannon Haymond, PhD, DABCC, FAACC, president of AACC, “and we can play a central role in the design, implementation, and testing of new approaches and tools to achieve interoperability. This is essential to advancing health care, as richer and more consistent sharing of laboratory test results would improve understanding for patients and clinical providers, significantly improve patient safety and clinical care efficiency, support public health, and facilitate groundbreaking research and innovative new diagnostics and treatments.
- This press release was originally published on the American Association of Clinical Chemistry website