The Importance of Interoperability
Why healthcare technology solutions need to be interoperable
Director of Product Marketing
“Interoperability” has been a constant buzzword in the healthcare industry for the past two decades. Essentially, it refers to the architecture that allows EHR systems to exchange accurate information between providers and other EHR systems. Unfortunately, this process has been difficult for many providers.
EHR systems are often vastly different from each other – they speak different languages, use different terminology and have different interfaces and technical capabilities. Because of this, it is often hard for health systems to interpret and accept data from outside EHRs and vice versa. As many health systems replace their smaller EHR technology vendors with larger enterprise EHR vendors like Epic and Cerner in search of greater interoperability, they’re finding that their challenges are far from over.
Health systems have become increasingly frustrated with the limitations of EHR vendors in terms of efficiently accessing and retrieving comprehensive patient data. Even after significant investments in their enterprise EHR systems, many providers remain overwhelmed by and dissatisfied with the inconsistencies and inefficiencies that still exist therein. This trend has led many providers to begin supplementing their EHRs with third-party technology solutions to help collect and generate patient data more dynamically, which helps them satisfy patient engagement demands.
Aside from creating a more comprehensive view of patient health, patient-generated health data encourages more efficient remote patient monitoring as well as reduced hospital readmission rates. With healthcare technology advancing, many hospitals have already implemented solutions to electronically gather patient data via electronic forms (i.e., eForms).
Many of these eForm solutions are accessible via integrated patient portal solutions, applications on the clinician’s laptops and desktop workstations and/or mobile tablets and smart devices in- and outside of the hospital environment. eForms capture inputted patient data and transfers that data accurately and completely to the EHR. Many of these solutions are patient-facing to help ensure accuracy.
Imagine a clinician needing to correctly identify a patient’s health record by using their last name, which happens to be “Johnson.” If the patient’s information hasn’t successfully been exchanged or interpreted by the receiving EHR system, the clinician might not be able to access the patient’s full record (including important physician notes), or they could incorrectly match the patient to the wrong file. In a worst-case scenario, the mix-up could be fatal if the patient has a medication allergy to the wrong prescription they receive or is scheduled for another patient’s surgery. It’s very important that information is transferred and captured accurately, and that it is readable by multiple EHR systems to avoid these potentially fatal risks.
When providers have the right shared information at their disposal, they can focus their energy and effort on caring for patients in the most efficient way possible. Already burdened with many other critical tasks, healthcare professionals can’t be bogged down by trying to interpret or decode notes and data from incomplete patient records.
The inclusion of technology for collecting patient-generated health data at many hospitals has helped to decrease workload by enabling patients to enter data about their health directly into the EHR, anytime and anywhere. However, when the technology is unable to exchange the patient information accurately between EHR systems, the risk for errors and mismatched information rises at an alarming rate.