The Value of Interoperability in Healthcare

February 12, 2019

The Value of Interoperability in HealthcareInteroperability may be a bit of a mouthful, but it’s a term for an important concept we’re hearing more and more of lately – and will continue to hear about as healthcare organizations work to achieve it.

According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), interoperability in the healthcare sphere is defined as “the ability of different information systems, devices or applications to connect, in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational boundaries to access, exchange and cooperatively use data amongst stakeholders, with the goal of optimizing the health of individuals and populations.”

In other words, rather than leaving healthcare information siloed in various locations, interoperability is all about connecting that information. Interoperability improves the manner in which healthcare information is accessed, shared and used – in order to deliver the best possible care to patients and create an overall healthier population. In fact, interoperability is such a significant issue that HIMSS has made it a key topic at their 2019 conference.

But what does interoperability really mean for healthcare organizations? Well, there are benefits in addition to its primary function of supporting improved patient care. Read on to learn more.

Why interoperability in healthcare matters for patient care

Interoperability and Patient CareWhen considering the myriad benefits of interoperability in healthcare, its potential impact on patient care must be addressed first. For healthcare companies, interoperability is an excellent way to streamline operations in support of the primary goal: providing optimal patient care. However, there are some challenges to achieving true interoperability.

While all EHRs are capable of sending and receiving patient data, not all systems are compatible with one another. This can make it challenging to share patient data. And, sending and receiving data between EHRs is only the beginning. To achieve true interoperability, after being shared patient health data must be integrated into the patient’s medical record and made quickly and easily accessible via an effective search engine. An EHR that lacks a powerful search function or that requires providers to sift through various tabs seeking relevant information costs valuable time. A strong content services platform for healthcare can facilitate this.

The ability to share information between various EHRs is crucial. The more information a physician or other healthcare provider can access – and the quicker they can get it – the faster they’ll be able to understand that patient’s health issue and determine a treatment plan. Complex medical issues exist and are further complicated when a provider cannot see the full picture. For example, patients with chronic conditions, or more than one chronic condition, may be under the care of multiple providers at various times. If the information from all of those providers is integrated into the patient’s overall medical record where it is searchable and accessible, a more effective treatment plan may be created.

This improved level of care translates into a better patient experience overall. And, as time is often of the essence in medical situations, healthcare interoperability may also play a role in improving patient outcomes.

Beyond the treatment of individual patients, the increased ability to share health-related data can also benefit the broader population by helping in the identification and tracking of public health trends. It may also provide critical support for public health initiatives.

Additional benefits of interoperability in healthcare

Interoperability benefitsWhile improved patient care is the primary goal of interoperability in healthcare, there are ancillary benefits for healthcare companies. Improved access to information enables healthcare organizations to work more efficiently by significantly reducing or eliminating the need for paper copies, instead relying on digital platforms. This helps streamline processes and optimize operations for healthcare companies, lessening the need for manual data entry and, in turn, decreasing the likelihood of data entry errors.

Healthcare companies can streamline business processes and increase productivity, saving time and money while simultaneously supporting the creation and maintenance of a more complete and accurate patient health record. Interoperability is a win/win.

Healthcare interoperability and security

Interoperability and SecurityWhen it comes to healthcare data, security is always a concern. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does support the sharing of health information – including individuals’ protected health information (PHI) – but only within specific guidelines and circumstances. As healthcare companies continue to work toward attaining interoperability, security will remain as crucial as ever with a continued commitment to abiding by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Achieving interoperability in healthcare

Despite the myriad benefits of interoperability, the healthcare industry still has a ways to go before achieving full interoperability. Healthcare companies that rely on a robust content services platform are well-positioned to reap the benefits of improved interoperability. The right content services platform will integrate with current EHRs and legacy systems, automatically enabling system interoperability and providing enhanced capabilities that facilitate overall optimization.

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