MONDAY, Oct. 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors at many U.S. hospitals still don't have access to patients' electronic medical records from outside health care providers, a new study finds.
An analysis of 2015 data from thousands of hospitals nationwide found that only 29.7 percent of them had at least some electronic access to, and integration of, patient health records from different health care providers, which is called "interoperability."
That was only a slight increase from 24.5 percent in 2014, the researchers from University of California, San Francisco said.
"I would have thought we'd see more movement in these measures, because electronic health records have been widely adopted for several years," study senior author Julia Adler-Milstein said in a university news release. She is an associate professor in the university's department of medicine and the Institute for Health Policy Studies.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 2,600 hospitals that responded to the American Hospital Association's annual survey in 2014 and 2015. They also looked at a sample of more than 3,500 hospitals that responded to the 2015 supplement on information technology, which included new questions on the frequency of use of electronic patient data from outside sources.
Adler-Milstein's team found that many hospitals have focused on transferring electronic health records from one institution to another, rather than integrating those records in ways that would enable doctors to quickly find information without having to read through a patient's entire record.
The researchers also found that 43 percent of the hospitals reported that outside patient information was available electronically when necessary, but more than one-third said they rarely or never used it. The most common barrier, the hospitals reported, was that doctors could not see the information in their own system's electronic health record.
"At the most fundamental level, interoperability and clinician use of outside records is about whether your doctor has access to the information she needs," Adler-Milstein said. "So, when we know that less than half of hospitals can do that, it's terrifying."
The study was published Oct. 2 in the journal Health Affairs.
HealthIT.gov has more on patient health records.