"The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." -- Sydney J. Harris

Significant Increase in Interoperability between Minnesota Clinics

Nearly all ambulatory care clinics in Minnesota have fully adopted electronic health records (EHR) systems, and nearly 30 percent more than last year can now share information with other clinics and health systems, according to the results of the 2015 Health Information Technology survey.

“Investments in health information technology improves every aspect of health care – better quality, lower cost and improved patient experience,” explained Jim Chase, MNCM President.

The survey, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and conducted by MN Community Measurement, details how Minnesota health systems have adopted and are using EHR systems.

For more than five years, the vast majority of Minnesota health systems have used EHR systems; however, it’s only in the past few years that more are using them to share information across health systems.

Last year, only 34 percent of clinics could electronically transmit information to other health systems – in 2015, that percentage nearly doubled to 63 percent. It has steadily increased from 11 percent in 2010, but the largest jump over the past five years occured between 2014 and 2015.

This ability, known as interoperability, is a key focus in health care. This is due to both a government focus from the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, and an increased awareness of the cost, quality and experience benefits. Interoperability can help health systems provide the most effective and efficient care because they can better coordinate patient care, which reduces duplicative tests; reduces medical errors; eliminates unnecessary paperwork; and improves patient engagement.

A decade ago, fewer than 17 percent of Minnesota’s clinics were using EHRs. Today, 95 percent of clinics have fully implemented EHRs and many are actively using them to improve patient care. Other notable findings in the 2015 survey include:

  • 89 percent of Minnesota clinics use EHRs to retrieve patient lab results
  • 83 percent use them to order lab tests and maintain patient concern/condition lists
  • 60 percent use EHRs for patient and in-clinic provider reminders that improve the quality and experience of patient care
  • 82 percent electronically exchange information with pharmacies

Patients can search for their clinic on to find out how the clinic has implemented EHRs. There are three levels of implementation: adopt, use and exchange. Clinics can earn up to three check marks in each level, which signals how far along they are in the continuum of fully adopting and implementing EHRs. HIT

The levels and check marks correspond to the following thresholds:

  • Adopt
    • One check: Planning to adopt
    • Two checks: Partially adopted
    • Three checks: Adopted in over 90 percent of clinics within health system
  • Utilize
    • One check: Used to retrieve lab results
    • Two checks: Used to retrieve lab results and for problem lists and order entry
    • Three checks: Used to retrieve lab results, for problem lists, order entry and reminders and QI efforts
  • Exchange
    • One check: Used for e-prescribing
    • Two checks: Use for e-prescribing and have EHRs installed in most clinics within health system
    • Three checks: Use for e-prescribing, have EHRs at most clinics and electronically transmit with clinics/hospitals outside their health system

The Health Information Technology survey is conducted annually as part of the Statewide Quality and Reporting Measurement System (SQRMS), which is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health.