Interoperability is an untapped tool in the fight against Covid-19

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As the coronavirus pandemic collides with flu season, barriers to accessing medical information could undermine not only individual patient care but public health. Our ability to successfully prevent, isolate, and control outbreaks of infectious disease will depend on how we leverage data and technology to track its spread and treat individual patients.
One lesson emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we must seize the opportunity to modernize how Americans’ health information is managed. The flow of data between patients’ electronic health records and public health surveillance systems is often a manual process involving paper documents and fax machines. Broad adoption of interoperability — the secure sharing of health information across platforms — has the potential to dramatically improve not only our response to the pandemic but also individual health outcomes.
The urgent need is clear, and the technology is available. But interoperability isn’t happening.
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At its core, interoperability is the requirement that all electronic health record systems (EHRs) “talk” to each other, so an emergency room in Wyoming can look up an ailing tourist’s health records in Alabama.

In the pandemic it would work like this: A man walks into an emergency room showing symptoms of Covid-19. His …

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