7 tips on achieving interoperability for better patient care

$30 billion was spent by the federal government to incent healthcare digitalization and integration in 2015, but the industry is still struggling.

The challenge is clear:

Interoperability and patient care go hand-in-hand. Unless healthcare organizations can find ways to share data with each other it will not be possible to have an environment where everyone involved has trust and confidence

Establishing trust in Interoperability

Exchanging relevant medical and patient data starts with getting all of the different parties together to form a data trust agreement that describes the data that they individually need and also agree to share.

According to Debbie Condrey, CIO at the Virginia Department of Health: “Interoperability means cooperative data sharing with other organizations. It’s not the ability to necessarily have everybody log into the same system and see everything, but it means that organizations can share information at the right place and in the right setting.”

Interoperability also presents challenges at the system level.

The first impulse is to have your IT department build interfaces or customer integration for each internal and third-party system you wish to share data with. Unfortunately, this process is extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming—and it is slow.

In today’s high demand healthcare environment, where quality patient care is more critical than ever, healthcare organizations can’t afford this.

“We already know that If you get the right clinicians involved and integrate systems for the right types of data exchange, you can come up with alerts, warnings and flags, by using fairly modest bunches of data, and this can actually have many impacts on care,” said Arthur Harvey, CIO of Boston Medical Center. “It’s important that we achieve the interoperability we need to make that happen.”

So how do you achieve interoperability AND better patient care? Here are seven starting tips:

  1. Achieving EMR interoperability for healthcare begins with selecting the right data to share so data can get to the right people at the right time. This process begins with getting together with all of your healthcare business partners to define a trust agreement on data that you all agree to exchange.
  2. Choose your “data stewards” wisely.  These are the individuals or teams who should have a say in data selection, management, and governance and who can also assist as you are defining data that you want to exchange with your business partners.
  3. Balance your data sharing approach between data governance and everything you and your healthcare partners need to know in order to treat patients. A balanced approach avoids unnecessary constraints on data.
  4. Consider using an independent data logistics solution that can automate system integration and data transfers in a secure environment that meets your privacy, security and regulatory requirements. This gives you a faster time to market for your information and avoids costly time and effort from your own internal IT.
  5. Only exchange data that is secured and delivered to authorized recipients in your healthcare chain of care.
  6. Prepare data so that new systems can receive and process it, and so users can understand it.
  7. Seamlessly integrate with mobile devices that range from fax machines, laptops, tablets and smartphones to different communications protocols on medical equipment such as MRI and X-Ray or imaging machines.

In today’s highly complex healthcare ecosystem, bringing together large data sets siloed within different systems is doable if you invest the time in first laying the business foundation, choosing the right data to use, and then building the technologies on top of that.

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