Hospital and physician group consolidation is increasing the heterogeneity of EMR systems under one roof.   New hospitals want to integrate the clinical data with other hospital systems, and create patient monitoring solutions and dashboards.

Health plans as well as hospitals can benefit from a well thought out integration strategy.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) or Electronic Medical Records (EMR) integration approaches depend on the strategy and priority in exchanging patient information between various healthcare applications, and the standards available:

Standards and approaches for EMR and EMR Integration

  • HL7 – A set of standards for structuring and exchanging clinical data. ASTM is an alternative standards group and both have their own vested interests and objectives.
  • HL7 CDA – XML-based exchange model for clinical documents (for example, progress notes and discharge summaries)
  • CCR – Continuity of Care Record – is an XML-based standard focused on organizing a transportable set of information about a patient’s health care that is accessible for both patients and clinicians.  The CCR was created by ASTM International, Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), HIMSS , the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP),  American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other health informatics vendors. It was designed to contain the most relevant and timely core health information about a patient.  It has been adopted by healthcare application vendors, including Google for its Patient Health Record.
  • CCD – this combined Continuity of Care Document – A blend of the CDA and CCR standards as a result of harmonization of standards in 2007.  Currently, CCD is being phased into EMR certification standards by CCHIT. It is an HL7 standard whereby a patient’s current clinical context is expressed in the framework of the Clinical Document Architecture.
  • ELINCS – EHR-Lab Interoperability and Connectivity Specification  – A standard for lab test results
  • EMR Vendors – Depending on the vendor, both proprietary and standards based specifications integrating with data fields in the vendor specific application

Integration Strategies and Best Practices

Building communities of more efficient physicians that are integrated electronically can benefit both health plans and hospitals.  Today, some  health plans still request patient medical records manually, paying up to $1.00 per faxed page to receive the records.  The records must then be re-keyed and loaded into the payor’s systems.  For hospitals, the heterogeneous nature of EMR and EHR systems mean multiple integrations to build, support, and maintain.

There are both technology and processes approaches that can be useful to implement a strategy effectively.

We have found that using a business road map approach to facilitate business, IT, and medical director alignment is key.  Physician out reach during and post integration is also important.  A services oriented architecture that enables easy integration with these standards, scalability, rules and business process modeling will provide an important foundation for interoperability.

Keep an eye on ONC and CCHIT to view the standards that are gaining certification.

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