Ever since the public release of the proposed rules for Meaningful Use stage 2, concerns regarding EMR capability to share and expedite medical information and workflow across multiple health organizations and platforms have been mounting consistently. The concept of an Accountable Care Organization is to provide efficient, effective and affordable healthcare. By creating a platform for sharing information across multiple health organizations the healthcare community can enhance medical response time and care delivery.
While ACOs are slowly emerging in forms of large hospital alliances dedicated to change through technology utilization, smaller practices with scarce resources are increasingly becoming endangered. Large medical groups are progressively developing integrated health networks by deploying resources to create sustainable technology that enables clinical collaboration.
Small organizations simply cannot afford to dedicate the time and resources necessary in developing such technology and hence most are dependent on their EHR vendor to provide a linkup to the HIE. However this does not work for everyone and although HIE development has significantly improved over the years, connectivity is still limited at best.
While many choose to blame EMR, issues like data security and information exchange protocols are seldom acknowledged. Communication and clinical information sharing are two of the most important questions in the healthcare community at the moment. However once the technology does break through, the situation is likely to change. What would happen when ACO partner organizations effectively start sharing confidential clinical data? Information is likely to pass through several other connected organizations that may lack HIPPA compliant systems or their staff may just not be trained to handle such sensitive information securely.
Digital information transmission exposes the organization to several security risks. While hosted solutions may be able to provide some level of security, the provider is not relieved of their responsibility towards safeguarding and protecting client information. EHR interoperability is definitely necessary in developing ACOs. However the focus should not just be on the technology itself, but on developing the right environment for it to flourish. Embedding a culture of responsibility within the healthcare community is the first step for enabling a successful transition towards Accountable Care Organizations.