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Meaningful Use: Flawed Communication Standards

Interoperability appears to be the biggest buzzword and the major focus for CMS in stage II of the meaningful use program. Even apart from the MU objectives, the healthcare industry is seeing intense debates regarding how to move forward with sharing medical information between all the entities that need access to it: providers, insurance companies, pharmacies, medical labs etc.


One part of the problem right now is that federal standards are more geared towards getting practices and organizations online rather than ensuring that medical tools can communicate properly with each other. This can be clearly seen by the growth rate in EHR adoption over the last few years but very few of these systems can exchange information in a meaningful way with each other. At this rate, the government may need a second wave of incentive programs in order to kickstart interoperability and data sharing.


Another aspect of the problem is the EHR ecosystem itself. A number of providers are unable to reach even the minimum standards set by CMS for interoperability, so that even if the government were to set higher standards not a lot of the existing software on the shelves will meet the criteria. In fact, if not for the meaningful use program or other government measures, some EHR vendors would probably end up making their products incompatible with any other system just to lock rivals out of the market place.


In addition to all this, medical organizations are unused to the idea of sharing clinical data freely in order to benefit the industry as a whole. Some hospitals are fearful of losing control over their data and will be reluctant to adopt industry standards for data compatibility. Nevertheless the existing measures for driving interoperability serve as a valuable starting point for the government to assess just how far the healthcare industry has come.


In an ideal world, providers would have adopted EHR products that incorporate standard protocols for the exchange of data and there would be no need for arguments about interoperability. Nevertheless as EHR systems become ubiquitous, it may be easier for providers to update them once an industry wide standard has been set for data exchange. The existing interoperability objectives – flawed though they may be – are far better than having no standards at all.


As the country moves forward with modernizing the health care system, it is clear that cloud-based, mobile first products like Dovetail dental software will be more advantageous to providers the long-term. Our dental software is designed to share information freely so that you don’t have to worry about anything but treating patients.





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