BACKGROUND: The rapid aging of the Taiwanese population in recent years has led to high medical needs for the elderly and increasing medical costs. Integrating patient information through electronic health records (EHRs) to reduce unnecessary medications and tests and enhance the quality of care has currently become an important issue. Although electronic data interchanges among hospitals and clinics have been implemented for many years in Taiwan, the interoperability of EHRs has not adequately been assessed.
OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to analyze the efficiency of data exchanges and provide suggestions for future improvements.
METHODS: We obtained 30 months of uploaded and downloaded data of EHRs among hospitals and clinics. The research objects of this study comprised 19 medical centers, 57 regional hospitals, 95 district hospitals, and 5520 clinics. We examined 4 exchange EHR forms: laboratory test reports, medical images, discharge summaries, and outpatient medical records. We used MySQL (Oracle Corporation) software (to save our data) and phpMyAdmin, which is a Personal Home Page program, to manage the database and then analyzed the data using SPSS 19.0 statistical software.
RESULTS: The quarterly mean uploaded volume of EHRs among hospitals was 52,790,721 (SD 580,643). The quarterly mean downloaded volume of EHRs among hospitals and clinics was 650,323 (SD 215,099). The ratio of uploaded to downloaded EHRs was about 81:1. The total volume of EHRs was mainly downloaded by medical centers and clinics, which accounted for 53.82% (mean 318,717.80) and 45.41% (mean 269,082.10), respectively, and the statistical test was significant among different hospital accreditation levels (F2=7.63; P<.001). A comparison of EHR download volumes among the 6 National Health Insurance (NHI) branches showed that the central NHI branch downloaded 11,366,431 records (21.53%), which was the highest, and the eastern branch downloaded 1,615,391 records (3.06%), which was the lowest. The statistical test among the 6 NHI branches was significant (F5=8.82; P<.001). The download volumes of laboratory tests reports and outpatient medical records were 26,980,425 (50.3%) and 21,747,588 records (40.9%), respectively, and were much higher than medical images and discharge summaries. The statistical test was also significant (F=17.72; P<.001). Finally, the download time showed that the average for x-rays was 32.05 seconds, which was the longest, and was 9.92 seconds for electrocardiogram, which was the shortest, but there was no statistically significant difference among download times for various medical images.
CONCLUSIONS: After years of operation, the Electronic Medical Record Exchange Center has achieved the initial goal of EHR interoperability, and data exchanges are running quite stably in Taiwan. However, the meaningful use of EHRs among hospitals and clinics still needs further encouragement and promotion. We suggest that the government's leading role and collective collaboration with health care organizations are important for providing effective health information exchanges.