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Several interesting healthcare technology news items garnered headlines this week. Issues involving the interoperability of technology figured prominently in these reports. This brief article discusses some of the most current developments in this field:

New Survey Suggests Hospitals Must Resolve Interoperability Issues

On March 25th, Stoltenberg Consulting released a survey conducted among leading Information Technology executives working in the healthcare industry. The company polled some 300 participants attending the largest healthcare information management conference scheduled to occur this year, the 2019 HIMSS Conference. The individuals responding to the survey all work in medical IT fields. Respondents indicated a lack of high tech systems interoperability poses the most significant challenge facing their institutions. The majority of survey participants prioritized modernizing and updating legacy systems at the top of their 2019 goals. Other important management objectives this year include curbing rising operational and personnel costs, streamlining medical records handling requirements, and obtaining financial reimbursements for services rendered.

Medical Database Problems in The News

Elsewhere this week, Fast Company reported upon the challenges of medical facilities beleaguered by problems caused by duplicative, erroneous, and incomplete electronic medical records. This phenomenon has occurred in part due to the absence of a single national patient database, coupled with data normalization problems at some facilities. Since a multitude of providers request variable information from patients and clinicians sometimes this causes problems due to inaccurate or duplicated electronic medical records. Sometimes patient medical records even include information collected from other patients using the same name at other facilities. Treatment files also may omit critical information about care provided elsewhere.

Two Leading Medical Lobbies Request More Time to Evaluate Interoperability Rules

This week, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the largest association representing nursing homes, lent its support to a request made last week by the influential American Hospital Association (AHA). The two organizations attracted the attention of the healthcare technology news media in urging federal regulators to allow more time to comment upon new substantive rules issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The proposed regulations address interoperability issues at medical facilities. The AHCA and AHA requested a minimum of at least 30 additional days to submit comments beyond the May 3rd deadline.

Eight States Consider Passing Caregiver Tax Credit Legislation

A lobbying group for people over age 50, the AARP, has urged California lawmakers to consider implementing state tax credits of up to $5,000 for family caregivers. One study conducted by the AARP during 2016 suggested on average a family caregiver incurs slightly over $6,950 annually in out-of-pocket costs. Currently, eight state legislatures have pending legislation about this issue: California, Arizona, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and New Jersey. The AARP reports it anticipates at least three additional states will consider similar bills during 2019: Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. The organization reportedly failed to persuade Congress to pass a similar tax credit of up to $3,000 at the national level in 2018.

The Interoperability of Medical Records Receives Consideration in Australia

The Australian Digital Health Agency recently released a proposed white paper concerning national health interoperability. It has requested comments about this document, described as a “roadmap co-design paper.” The proposal addresses the topic of interoperability broadly within both an electronic medical records and a core medical values/foundations context.

A New Study Promotes Standardizing Data to Enhance Patient Identification

The Pew Research Organization and Indiana University recently released findings urging medical institutions to adopt standardized demographic formats in an effort to enhance database data normalization for medical records purposes. Reported in the journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the research reportedly found value in utilizing a Postal Service standardized format for patient addresses.

App Creators May Help Prevent Suicides

A healthcare technology news item concerning app development reports increased interest among some IT firms in developing applications to function as suicide prevention hotlines. As more companies design chatboxes to converse with patients about symptoms, this issue has assumed urgency for some developers. Two important issues involve when to contact emergency services and how to identify bogus reports of symptoms.

Healthcare Information Breaches Increasingly Occur Due to Unauthorized Email Disclosures

The theft of confidential healthcare information through IT breaches and hacking currently exceeds other sources of unauthorized healthcare data releases, according to some experts. Reportedly, since 2017, email breaches have posed the most significant problem. Cyber breaches involving email constituted nearly 25% of all healthcare data thefts in 2017. Other leading sources of leaked healthcare information include security breaches impacting laptops, network servers, and paper or film files. A spokeswoman for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives recommends care providers consider designating a Chief Information Security Officer position to help protect healthcare information security.