Communication between states not a priority during EMR transition

The government's initiative to fund the healthcare industry's conversion to EMR software included an unheralded component that provides funding to states to establish platforms capable of sending and receiving information among healthcare providers.

According to the Department of Health of Human Services, the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program is intended to "enable patient-centric information flow" to improve the quality of healthcare. The program gave out $548 million in funding in 2009.

States are not required to adopt one universal exchange method, which raises questions about how electronic health information will be shared across state lines. States are progressing slowly and are more focused on developing their own models for intrastate communication than they are with ensuring compatibility with other states. For example, a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) study recently found that only 41 percent of healthcare providers have met or will likely meet the first "meaningful use" standards of the transition to EMR. 

"Each state is unique and their [exchanges] will mirror their unique state characteristics, needs and requirements," healthcare IT industry expert Pam Matthews told The Center for Public Integrity.

Industry observers are also concerned about how states will fund exchange programs once federal funding runs out. States received one-time grants of anywhere between $38 million and $4 million (California and Delaware, respectively), but no long-term government funding plans exists. As such, some states are sure to lag behind.

"Some states are going to be a success and some are going to be failures," University of Michigan assistant professor Julia Adler-Milstein told the news source. "For the states that don't succeed it will be seen as a nice experiment and what they build will not continue to operate."

Healthcare providers face countless challenges in transitioning to electronic medical systems. There are many aspects of electronic healthcare data, such as eprescribing software, that must align with other programs in a state, and consultants can inform clients of their options when it comes to Allscripts, Practice Choice, and other similar products.