5 Myths Debunked by the 2023 State of Interoperability Report

As purveyors of organized, actionable health data, Health Gorilla recently took the pulse of our industry by surveying key decision-makers about advances in interoperability and major strategic shifts in digital health.

The result – our 2023 State of Interoperability Report – gave us a holistic look at how CIOs are navigating new regulations, the emergence of new use-cases for clinical data, and what we’re all thinking about issues related to patient data access and data quality.

In collaboration with Flexpa and the Health Management Academy, we collected data from senior executives at health systems, electronic health record (EHR) vendors, digital health companies, and labs. 

Our findings confirmed some hunches and yielded a few surprises. Read on for five myths we debunked. 

Myth #1: Health systems won’t share data for purposes other than treatment.

The truth: Most health systems support sharing patient data for purposes beyond treatment.

Broad health information sharing for multiple permitted purposes, including individual access and payment and operations is supported by 58 percent of CIO respondents. Twenty-nine percent support sharing data for Individual Access Services, enabling consumers to retrieve their health records, and only 13 percent said they will only share the minimum amount of data necessary to comply with regulatory demands.

In addition, the majority of digital health companies use HIE data to deliver patient care, but the list of use cases is expanding. 

Sixty-one percent are using it to deliver care for chronic conditions and 50 percent for primary care, but those aren’t the only purposes – 44 percent say they’re using it for patient onboarding, 39 percent are screening patients before clinical visits, 39 percent for population analysis, 31 percent for longitudinal tracking after clinical visits, and 19 percent for clinical research.

Takeaway:  The use cases for leveraging complete patient data are ever-expanding and the utility of data holds great promise. 

Myth #2: No one’s interested in accessing non-traditional health data yet.

The truth: Both electronic health record (EHR) vendors and digital health companies want more non-traditional data types. 

Sixty percent of EHR respondents said they’re interested in surfacing complete historical diagnostics across multiple lab vendors for providers at the point of care, 52 percent want patient-reported outcomes, 48 percent are looking for complete pharmacy and claims data. Forty percent are interested in social determinants of health (SDOH) data. 

Digital health executives are most interested in complete claims data (52 percent) but 42 percent said they want patient-reported outcomes, 39 percent cited complete pharmacy data, 36 percent are looking for diagnostics and imaging, and 28 percent would like to access SDOH data.

Takeaway: Non-traditional data types are of interest to EHRs and digital health companies to succeed in value-based programs.

Myth #3: The quality of patient data is relatively good.

The truth: Data quality remains a major hurdle. 

Health systems are mixed about the quality of the data received through health information exchanges (HIEs). Only 2 percent found the data to be perfect or near quality and 38 percent said the data was good quality. Half of them thought it was OK – with some duplicative, incomplete, or junk data. The other 10 percent said it was bad or very bad quality.

Digital health respondents also said that incompleteness and gaps in the data are persistent problems for patient data retrieved through national networks – with 69 percent saying there are gaps. Additionally, 36 percent say it is lacking specific kinds of health data (medications, progress notes, labs, etc.), 25 percent cited issues relating to duplicative and junk data, and 16 percent are not receiving data from specific clinical sites of interest.

Takeaway: We still have work to do on the quality and completeness of patient data retrieved through exchanges .

Myth #4: Digital health companies retrieve patient data primarily from EHR integrations.

The truth: Digital health companies employ multiple avenues for retrieving EHR data in parallel.

About 33 percent use an EMR integration, connected by a third party, and 25 percent have direct EMR integrations, built in-house. Some 22 percent say that internal staff retrieves charts or clinical information manually, another 22 percent have a direct integration with an HIE, and 19 percent use patient-mediated or consent-based retrieval.

Takeaway: Digital health organizations rely on multiple methods to reliably acquire patient data, and standardizing across channels is key. 

Myth #5: TEFCA is not top of mind.

The truth: The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), as outlined by the 21st Century Cures Act, is on more people’s radar than we thought. 

And with a few reservations, 91 percent of health system CIOs support TEFCA; Fifty-eight percent expressed the need for more protection and guardrails around the data.

A majority of health systems – 68 percent – are working to comply with TEFCA in anticipation of reimbursement changes, and 22 percent are already compliant. 

Most EHR respondents are aware they will need to join a Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN) under TEFCA, and a third are currently prioritizing it. Additionally, most top 20 EHRs expect to connect to a QHIN in 2023, but 16 percent of respondents said they’ll wait until they’re required to connect by law.

Takeaway: As QHINs are designated this year and TEFCA becomes operational, we all have much to learn about the path forward. 

Get a complete look at the 2023 State of Interoperability report, with comprehensive insights from healthcare leaders about health data exchange here: healthgorilla.com/home/stateofinterop2023