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Half of ACOs lack behavioral data

January 28, 2016

Despite investments in health information technology (HIT), accountable care organizations (ACOs) still face interoperability challenges that make it difficult to integrate data across the healthcare continuum. For example, according to a recent survey by eHealth Initiative and Premier, Inc., more than half (53%) of ACOs have not integrated data from behavioral health providers.

Behavioral health and substance abuse data's complex informed patient consent rules and other legal restrictions complicate integration, according to the survey report. A number of respondents rate behavioral health as harder to integrate than other types of data (10%).

ACOs also continue to struggle with integrating disparate clinical sources. Findings show that 39% of ACOs integrate data from one to 10 health information systems, 44% integrate data from 11 to 50 systems, and 11% from more than 50 systems.

“ACOs are burdened with integrating diverse clinical and administrative information systems that were designed to function independently,” the survey report says.

Additionally, because information systems are designed to meet the unique needs of different settings and specialties, they tend to lack a common language for communicating patient data.

Integrating data is also complex and quite expensive. The survey shows that 11% of ACOs have spent at least $500,000 to achieve system interoperability, with 26% having spent more than $1 million.

Regarded as one of the biggest challenges facing ACOs at 79%, was obtaining data from outside the ACO network. The survey report explains that this requires complex data sharing agreements and new interfaces between systems. Practices "lack the proper incentives to share data."

Sixty-eight ACOs responded to the survey that spanned three years.

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