The ACA addressed one of the barriers to the universal use of electronic medical records by providing $27 billion in federal funds to incentivize their use. It’s working: Electronic records are being increasingly adopted throughout the health care system. But for EMRs to be truly effective, hospitals and doctors’ offices need to be able to exchange patient data, and that’s been hampered by the use of different systems with incompatible technology. Now a couple of industry initiatives are underway to help get past this barrier. An IT collaborative announced last year, Carequality, is developing common standards and legal agreements that will help varied technologies and systems connect. In addition, seven vendors of medical record systems, including Cerner Corp., McKesson Inc. and Athenahealth Inc., have formed a trade group called CommonWell Health Alliance to allow their customers to share records. It’s a major collaboration, representing companies that supply 44% of hospital electronic-medical records and about 21% of those in doctors’ offices. The alliance now has 17 members, including CVS Caremark. Employers can help advance the cause by raising the issue of interoperable medical records with their vendor partners.
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