Interoperability- this is one term that people all over healthcare talk about- but the buzz around this word has defeated its initial purpose. While at HIMSS18, I was wondering if which- time or quality- in care held the most meaning? What was more achievable? What should be the focus?
Would you be surprised if the answer was both?
Despite booming innovations, data sharing remains unanswered
Everyone keeps on emphasizing on how important a single data repository in healthcare is. Why must physicians hop from one application to other- looking for crucial information? A conversation with an RN told me that she devoted almost 4-5 hours a day- just calling for reports from different practices, printing them, and relaying information. The same goes for physicians. They have to spend a good part of their day on EHRs, searching for vital information from all over the network and ensuring that their patients are able to navigate through the presently uncoordinated healthcare.
And it’s not something that can’t be achieved. Physicians themselves don’t wish to hold information back- a survey reported that almost 94% physicians were willing to exchange data so that their patients could get better care. Then, why only 44% of them were actually able to share patient data in a meaningful way?
Value of interoperability in today’s healthcare
Before anything- let’s consider the patient perspective of this entire scenario. Imagine Jared- a patient who is suffering from a stage 4 kidney failure and is repeatedly referred to multiple physicians, labs, and dialysis facilities. During each visit, Jared is required to present all his past clinical and financial information- that takes a good 10 minutes before any procedure. What if, someday, Jared has been referred to a new facility- 20 miles away from his house that was recently included in his network. Because the facility is unable to acquire his records from his PCP, Jared has to undergo the same set of tests and procedures he took two months ago. Not only was this a time-consuming repetition in his tests and procedures- it costed the network thousands of dollars, and possibly impacted Jared’s health.
Such situations are the main hurdles when it comes to providing patient-centric care. The lack of availability of right data at the fingertips of the providers at the right time affects a patient most of all. The acquisition of data is the primary issue. We are still dealing with vast and disjointed datasets that exist in disparate, independent EHRs, regional HIEs, and a lot other databases. Healthcare needs a common platform that shares data in a standard manner across care teams- beyond workflows, beyond state policy difference, and beyond the data systems.
Role of data sharing standards in promoting true interoperability
Data sharing, nowadays, is most commonly carried out either through a user-specific interface such as portals or through conventional data sharing standards such as HL7. Considering the suitability and universal acceptance of the latter option, various interoperability standards have been developed to promote the continuous improvement in the field of healthcare interoperability.
HL7’s latest standard, FHIR enables physicians to access the medical data about their patients on a mobile application through various API functions that it supports. With FHIR resources physicians can access vital information on the fly, as well as identify trivial things like gaps in medication adherence- something that costs the U.S. almost $300 billion every year! With real-time access to every relevant data across the network, providers can ensure better physician-patient engagement. With such information at the ready, providers can target early interventions to reduce the ED utilization rate, hospital readmission rate, SNF utilization rate, and ultimately, enhance the quality of the care.
The best use case to explain interoperability- healthcare data integration
Be it the provider-provider, provider-payer, or the patient-provider scenario- interoperability has become a necessity. Integrating data from multiple sources and data feeds is the first step to kickstart interoperability. Once all the clinical and other relevant information is stored on a unified healthcare data platform, we can create a comprehensive picture of the patient health and the population health.
With an integrated platform, providers can access updated records for each patient that details their vitals and medication history. Care teams anywhere in the network can leverage these records and gain accurate information to measure the impact of their care programs and interventions. And by documenting their interactions with patients, care teams can allow updated information to be reconciled back with the original records- ensuring the integrity and accuracy of patient records at all times.
The road ahead
We don’t just need something to simplify integration; we need a holistic platform which aims to deliver quality at every step. Interoperability is something that has kept healthcare leaders bewildering for so long now, and we can’t afford patients getting affected. No patient need to suffer just because vital information isn’t accessible at the right time. In a world where technology has made it possible for us to get our dinner delivered to us in 30 minutes or less, 100% interoperability is definitely within our reach!
To learn how a unified healthcare data platform can open up the world of true data interoperability, get a demo.
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