Health IT interoperability is key to experiencing the better care outcomes that technology and information exchange can deliver. But as soon as a healthcare facility invests in interoperable systems, how can the data be used by clinical end-users?

Here are some perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technologists and other end-users as health IT interoperability goes mainstream in most organizations.

Managing Different Clinical Data Conventions

One of the major challenges clinicians face when they work with data from different health information systems or from different organizations is the conventions used to render clinical data elements. Sometimes, data aggregated from different sources may be grouped under a similar heading but with different meanings.

Another problem occurs when clinicians forget to check a list item even after the matter has been resolved. The problem is transferred as active even when it has been successfully treated. This makes it difficult to know whether the problem has been treated and resurfaced or if it was never treated at all.

Making Sense of Disparate Data Schema

Unfortunately, every EHR has a different data schema. But the consolidated clinical document architecture (CCDA) has been designed to exchange data using a single common format. The only major challenge here is that CCDA allows a lot of options, which means each EHR’s CCDA has a different volume of data although with the same format.

Some CCDAs come in with just the right amount of information you need while others come in with a lot of options filled in. This could create the additional task of filtering and extracting the most useful data from it.

Developing Interoperability Workflows

So, what should healthcare CIOs and other related executives do to ensure that all this data becomes more useful to clinicians? Here are some ideas that can make data more usable:

  • Adopting a national patient matching strategy: This can be done using a voluntary identifier, biometrics or data in a non-healthcare database.
  • Develop interoperability workflows: Experienced health IT personnel that appreciate the need for data and knowledge sharing within their workflows can handle this type of project.

Efforts must be made to provide the most relevant data for a clinician to do his/her job efficiently. Hopefully, in the near future, the brand of EHR will be less important as a growing number of third-party apps help clinicians create innovative data visualizations that meet their needs.

Hopefully, more cloud service and mobile app providers will increase the usability of patient and health IT data so that many patient-provider appointments and visits can be done without the provider ramping at the keyboard.

Eventually, with the increased adoption of Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) over CCDA, there will be a more standardized way for data to flow from one EHR platform to another. Ultimately, more third-party vendors like HEF Solutions will use FHIR APIs to increase the flow and usability of patient data from one healthcare organization to another.