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The Path to EHR Interoperability

The long-anticipated interoperability of Electronic Health Records has at last been codified (or nearly) by CMS’s proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements. As veteran healthcare IT journalist Ken Terry writes in Information Week, interoperability is the “linchpin of MU Stage 2” as well as CMS’s proposed rule on 2014 certification of EHRs.

How difficult will it be to achieve CMS’s interoperability goals? According to the proposed rule, to be certified as meeting Stage 2 requirements, EHRs will need to exchange Continuity of Care Documents (CCD) with the EHRs of other vendors; use Direct secure messaging to exchange patient data across enterprises; use certain standard medical terminologies such as SNOMED CT; and use the HL7 2.51 messaging format to submit reportable lab data, immunizations, and syndromic surveillance to public health agencies.

While many providers will struggle to meet the new requirements for interoperability, others are taking the lead.

University Health System (UHS) in San Antonio is the latest major healthcare organization to announce that it will deploy the Allscripts Community Record to share patient data across its facilities and with affiliates, in this case the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. UHS utilizes Sunrise Enterprise acute care EHR as well as Sunrise Ambulatory EHR for its 700 employed physicians.


UHS joins the ranks of several other health systems across the country to deploy the community record. Rick Schooler, CIO of Orlando Health and  winner of the 2012 CHIME-HIMSS John E. Gall CIO of the Year Award, recently told attendees at HIMSS that Allscripts Community Record is live and accumulating data from disparate source systems including Orlando’s Sunrise EHR and, soon, employed physicians using Allscripts ambulatory EHR.  Orlando will also soon add feeds to and from affiliated providers in private practice, and the solution will serve as Orlando’s point of connectivity for the State of Florida HIE, Schooler said.

Interoperability.  No longer just a pipe dream.

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