Learning from Healthcare Systems Around the Globe about Integrated Patient Records

In the first installment of this two part series, Daniel Pidutti, Senior Director of Healthcare Solutions in the Information Intelligence Group at EMC Corporation, Pleasanton, Calif., addressed the need for integrated patient records in the United States. Here, Pidutti goes beyond theory and offers some insight into how U.S. healthcare providers can make integrated patient records a reality by following in the footsteps of European healthcare organizations.

HIMSSwire: Other countries, including those in Europe, are much further along in providing an integrated patient record. What can healthcare organizations in the United States learn from them?
Pidutti: The first, and likely the most important, thing that U.S. providers can learn is the fact that interoperability standards are becoming more and more important. Standards enable providers, whose systems are not connected, to share information across the healthcare continuum. The longitudinal view of a patient's record that comes out of interoperability enables clinicians to see all of the care that a given patient has received across the continuum of care.

HIMSSwire: What benefits are healthcare providers experiencing as integrated patient records become more common in European countries?
An integrated patient record includes information from multiple systems that are managed by any number of various stakeholders. So not only is care team collaboration improved as a result of this ability to share information, care coordination is as well. If both providers and vendors adopt standards, then integration costs become less expensive—and then they will be able to share information across the integrated delivery network at reduced costs.

HIMSSwire: What is the biggest challenge in coming up with and adopting standards?
Hospitals have made huge investments in a variety of information systems. Integrating all the systems is going to be expensive. So, it comes down to the fact that there is a return on investment equation—an ability to leverage current IT investments while investing in new healthcare information technology solutions. As we know, healthcare organizations have many information systems, such as clinical applications, that don't need to be replaced for five or ten years and they will be asking if it is worth it to retire these systems and replace them with ones that comply with the data sharing standards. So, I don’t see this as a "big bang" where everyone rips out their current systems and replaces them with new ones that comply with the standards. I see it as a more gradual progression.

With healthcare providers adopting electronic health records at a quicker clip than ever before, the need for complete information at the point of care is clear. Providers can go beyond just talking about complete information at the point of care and can turn the vision into reality by following the European lead and integrating information from disparate systems into one integrated view of patient information that will truly enable clinicians to deliver improved care.