Healthcare Interoperability: The Phrase of the New Roaring ‘20s
By: Natalie Cheng
It’s the roaring 20’s….2020s that is, and the topic that many in healthcare and technology are discussing is interoperability. According to HealthIT.gov, “interoperability is the ability of two or more systems to exchange health information and use the information once it is received.” The concept sounds simple enough, but the actual execution is what many are finding difficult. Because of all the legacy systems that weren’t built to talk to other systems and processes in place, it’s difficult for healthcare IT to be fully interoperable. How can organizations transition to more interoperable solutions in healthcare?
Adopting HIE services
Health Information Exchange (HIE) allows health care professionals and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s medical information electronically. HIE services along with electronic health records (EHRs) help organizations achieve interoperability. HIE-supported projects or activities include things such as a listing of patients eligible for care management due to encounters at other facilities, listing of recent emergency encounters and admissions for scheduled patients, automated notifications of patients’ emergency encounters and admissions, and listing of demographic and contact information for care management assigned patients. According to an article published by the AMIA, “HIE supports direct clinical care and case management activities and patient enrollment into specific programs. HIE can fulfill a unique role for health care organizations: as a source of information on unfamiliar, or hard to reach and sought out type of patient.” If healthcare providers and their patients work together and utilize HIE, it will help advance interoperability.
Adhering to Standards
In addition to HIE and EHR systems, supporting and adhering to standards is crucial in accelerating interoperability. The ONC has created the Standards and Interoperability Framework to develop shared, workable solutions to common information exchange challenges, provided the standards and implementation environment to software developers, worked with implementers to develop workable and scalable models for key exchange use cases, workflows, etc., and certifying health IT systems.
Financial and Clinical Incentives
The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs or the Promoting Interoperability Programs are one step toward interoperability. With the programs, eligible healthcare providers receive financial incentives for adopting and meaningfully using EHR systems. In addition, the programs now include a new phase of EHR measurement with an increased focus on interoperability and improving patient access to health information. The ONC has a tool to help clinicians estimate the amount of money they could receive from treating Medicare patients living with chronic conditions, while using certified health information technology, on the HealthIT.gov dashboard. According to the ONC, these incentives have significantly increased adoption and use of health IT systems among providers. In addition, financial incentive and penalties have been a major influence on physicians to adopt these tools.
Information security is critical to healthcare information and providers must ensure that patient health information is kept safe and secure along the patient journey. EHR developers are required to build security into their products and the ONC also has a set of standards and certification criteria to keep data safe.
Looking into Interoperability Solutions
Are you getting the information you need to provide better patient care? Are your systems and processes interoperable? Are you looking for guidance on interoperability solutions? Our team can help guide you. Feel free to contact us.