The Long Road to Interoperability
As the provisions of the HITECH act become the law of the medical reimbursement landscape, the provisions of meaningful use are gaining wider public attention. A recent blog by Whitney Adair in PolicyMic, “Electronic Health Records: What’s Wrong With a $6.5 Billion Medical Gold Rush?” points out that while a few companies have profited hugely, the actual use of EHRs has a long way to go.
A February 21st letter published in New England Journal of Medicine noted that as of May 2012, more than 62,000 doctors had attested to meaningful use, which translates to 12.2% of eligible physicians. The slow adoption of EHR systems has to do with cost, usability, and reliability. EHR developers may be getting richer, but they are not producing EHR systems that doctors are ready to embrace.
So, what does public health do until the health system is fully automated, integrated and interoperable? Public health must deal with a multi-faceted information world, some paper, some electronic, and none of it sufficiently standardized to make the job of synthesizing the growing flood of data into useful information any easier. This is why the field of informatics is so critical to public health and its mission. Public health informaticians will continue to play a vital role in sifting through data and compiling it into meaningful, useful information for public health and the communities served. The need for efficient information systems within public health and skilled informaticians will only increase as we continue down the long road to an interoperable health system.