Electronic information sharing—supported by interoperable health information technology systems—plays a critical role in improving health outcomes, lowering health care costs, and improving the patient experience of care.
Much of the information about a patient’s health and health care resides in the many settings in which care and services are delivered. This includes offices of primary care physicians and specialists, clinics, health plans, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies, and radiology centers, as well as patients themselves. This information must be delivered in a usable format to the clinician and the care team to deliver high-quality, cost-effective, coordinated, patient-centered care. Information sharing can help clinicians avoid duplicative tests, identify and address gaps in care, and avoid medication and other errors—all of which drive higher-quality and more cost-effective care.1 Information sharing and interoperability also play a key role in rapidly emerging models of delivery and payment, advances in biomedical innovation, and empowering individuals as they manage their own health and health care.
While a majority of clinicians and hospitals are now adopting electronic health records, largely due to more than $30 billion in federal investments brought about by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, the level of interoperability and meaningful electronic information sharing across different organizations is still fairly low.
Public and private sector leaders alike have taken many actions to improve interoperability and information sharing, but more collaborative action is needed if Americans are to reap the full benefits.