Some healthcare professionals are genuinely concerned about the downside of health data interoperability. They believe that sharing patient data could impact their business negatively.
However, many healthcare industry experts believe that we must work towards true interoperability to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide better patient outcomes. Achieving interoperability, however, requires having a clear path towards obtaining this objective.
From the onset, we must agree on the definition of the concept of interoperability. It may be defined as: “the ability of devices and systems to exchange data and interpret it accurately.” If two systems are truly interoperable, they can exchange and present data without a hitch, and the data presented will be useful for decision making.
While that definition is quite easy to understand, many issues arise when we face the task of integrating operations among a variety of complex and even conflicting health information systems.
The healthcare industry operates with multiple data sources such as clinics, medical practices, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, pharmacies, insurance providers, industry regulators and many more integrated networks of care.
While the U.S. government and industry regulators have worked towards standardizing communication between computer systems in recent years, there are still many real and perceived barriers to achieving full interoperability.
Barriers to Full Interoperability
Some of the significant barriers to implementing systems that support full interoperability include the following.
- Use of closed-model systems: Unfortunately, many providers still use closed-model electronic medical record (EMR) systems to keep track of appointments and patient records. Many of those who even own more robust electronic health record (EHR) systems can’t share their data with the systems of other providers, and many don’t appreciate the benefits of health data sharing.
- Hesitation to invest in new EHR systems: Many providers who should upgrade their systems and start using more robust platforms, like the EHRs supplied by HEF Solutions, aren’t even sure of the efficiency of proposed solutions, and they’re reluctant to invest in them.
- Fear of losing autonomy: Many providers are reluctant to share their data or make their systems accessible because of fear of losing control in scheduling appointments, coordinating care from within the organization and tracking data.
- Insecurity: Some providers also avoid opening up their information systems for fear of being hacked. Since hackers have started focusing more on the illegal acquisition of private health information in recent times, providers need a stronger assurance of security before exposing their systems to unguarded interoperability.
How to Start Progressing Towards Interoperability
While the objections to interoperability are valid and need careful consideration, they show that there is a need to explore the benefits of this type of system further. It’s when providers appreciate the vital benefits of interoperability that they’ll work hard to attain it.
Some of the benefits include the following.
- Cost savings: Information sharing helps improve efficiency which, in turn, reduces the cost and time needed to treat patients. It also reduces the cost of administration and other recurrent expenses.
- Improved patient outcomes: Different systems share data about patient medical histories, appointments and treatment. This creates a more accurate and faster continuity of care.
- Fast access to patient data: More effective access to timely data allows practitioners to study patient records and outcomes with ease, leading to better decision making. Patients can also have access to their data, treatment plans and lab test results through robust patient portals.
To make progress towards interoperability, we recommend that you evaluate the systems in your healthcare organizations and see how well connected they are. You can also reach out to us at HEF Solutions for a free consultation to explore what you can do now to start enjoying the benefits of a truly interoperable health information system.