A skilled nursing facility could spend lavishly on an electronic health record system, but without the ability for hospital discharge planners to download medication records, physicians to upload care summaries, or payers to review charts, it all would be a waste of time and resources. Experts discuss here how to ensure greater interoperability with electronic health records.

1. Ensure your EHR software is a good fit for your facility.

Today’s sophisticated EHR systems must line up a number of ways.

Under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ newly introduced Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule, it is essential that SNFs begin proactively researching and implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to meet interoperability demands, according to Cindy Kreider, RN, BC RAC-CT, a clinical specialist for Real Time Medical Systems, which provides software solutions for various healthcare segments. 

Unfortunately, disparate EHR systems between acute- and post-acute care settings make it cumbersome to share resident data across the continuum of care.

“To avoid a costly EHR integration to match the hospital’s platform, nursing facilities should begin to identify software solutions that will allow them to share resident care data, in real-time, with their hospital partners to achieve interoperability,” Kreider says.

2. Make sure that your EHR system is people- and process-friendly.

“To ensure staff buy-in, embedding interoperability into the workflow is key,” says American HealthTech President Teresa Chase. “If interoperability interrupts the natural workflow, that is, requires the staff to go somewhere outside of the normal process, staff buy-in and consistent use will most likely be hit-or-miss.”

Chase advises long-term care providers make education around interoperability part of the electronic health record’s workflow and not a separate training process for employees.

“For example, with more and more admissions, verifying eligibility as a part of the natural preadmission or admission process is crucial; it will save the staff time, ensure eligibility is verified and possibly save the organization money,” she adds. 

3. Ground your EHR platform properly.

“As envisioned, interoperability should be built on transparency and connectivity, allowing a patient’s critical health information to be easily accessible, regardless of where treatment is being administered,” asserts BJ Boyle, PointClickCare’s vice president and general manager of Post-Acute Insights.

“As value-based care and payment-care models move to the forefront, blind handoffs of patient information are no longer viable, as they drastically increase the financial risks hospitals and payer groups now have — not to mention the clear detriment the system has on delivery of care,” Boyle adds. 

He believes data silos between healthcare partners would be eliminated and more confident decision-making would be enabled as a result of integrated solutions, especially during transitions of care.

“When practitioners are able to access a 360-degree view of a patient’s medical history, the care they’re able to give expands exponentially,” Boyle says. “Interoperability doesn’t just make good business sense; it’s simply the right thing to do.”

4. Don’t skimp on the features.

As mentioned, be picky when choosing an EHR solution that plays well with the systems your data sharing partners use. But don’t overlook key software and other features, either.

“The electronic health record continues to mature, and developers are keenly focused on interoperability issues,” says Majd Alwan, Ph.D., senior vice president of technology for LeadingAge and executive director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST).

Alwan believes the most “exciting” current developments are advanced features like clinical decision support, quality data analytic tools and dashboards, all of which “are improving quality of care, and impacting quality measures and metrics, like 5-Star ratings, which are shaping referral networks as well as contracts with managed care,” he says. 

5. Build strong, collaborative local healthcare partnerships.

It may be an overstatement, but many experts believe partnerships are a much-overlooked part of EHR integration and interoperability efforts.

“Ensure that you have a healthcare information technology partner that is on the cutting edge of shaping interoperability standards and driving adoption and promotion in the communities you serve,” says AJ Peterson, vice president, general manager of interoperability and consumer engagement for Netsmart, a healthcare software company.

“And foster collaboration and partnerships within your community to adopt technology tools that provide value to the individuals you serve across their entire care continuum.”