Interoperability functions like an international plugin adaptor, allowing data to flow seamlessly between healthcare systems, like different electronic sockets.
Timely access to medical records is crucial for accurate patient diagnoses and a better healthcare experience. A lack of interoperability - easily accessible and exchangeable electronic health information - delays treatment, causes medical errors, and leads to poorer patient outcomes. Patients treated at multiple healthcare systems rarely have a comprehensive medical record and are forced to perform the time and labor-intensive task of compiling their fragmented health history.
Yale University Scientist Harlan Krumholz detailed the difficulty securing his father-in-law’s medical records after suffering a stroke-related seizure while on vacation in California. Upon returning home to Rhode Island, his father-in-law attempted to gather his hospitalization record, and despite family-wide efforts and many months of contact, he never acquired it. Inspired, Krumholz and other Yale researchers began studying patient experiences acquiring health histories, “We wanted to know what it is like for patients to get access to their medical records - a protected right under federal regulations.”
The study “Assessment of US Hospital Compliance With Regulations for Patients’ Requests for Medical Records”, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), simulated the patient experience of requesting medical records from a sample of the top 83 hospitals in the United States. Only 53% of the hospitals allowed patients to request their entire healthcare record, 21% of hospitals disclosing length of release reported they were less than a week, and costs ranged between $0-$541.50.
The 21st Century Cures Act, signed in 2016, advocates for increased healthcare interoperability. The Cures Act was updated in 2020 to provide additional measures to reduce information blocking, the practice of discouraging and preventing patient access to their electronic health information.
The Cures Act mandated that healthcare systems use a standardized web interface, the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources framework (FHIR), to exchange healthcare records. In much the same way standard interfaces in mobile networks allow users to easily change carriers and roam in different countries, FHIR allows patients to gather their healthcare data across systems, giving them autonomy in their medical experience and providing increased coordination, leading to fewer miscommunications and repeated tests.
The 21st Century Cures Act and the unexpected disruption of traditional medical care due to the COVID-19 pandemic are accelerating the healthcare industry’s transformation to a patient-centered approach. Tell Health, a free HIPAA compliant healthcare social app, is a purely medical space for physicians and their patients to share information. Our platform charts a path to a digital Personal Health Record where the patient owns their record and can control how their healthcare providers access it. As a broker between patients and providers, Tell Health gives patients autonomy to share their information with multiple providers. Patients directing their medical history increases efficiency, expands access to providers between states, improves the referral process, and allows for deeper personal health insight.