EHR Interoperability – The Path to Improving Healthcare Operations
Interoperability has become an integral component of healthcare and value-based delivery. In order to perform and meet the demands of new business models and guidelines, providers need to leverage patient care information seamlessly across networks to ensure that their patients receive the best care in the most cost-effective and efficient environment.
In many cases, a medical office’s electronic health record platform doesn’t integrate properly with those of other physicians, pharmacies and healthcare facilities. For EHR information-sharing to work seamlessly, this myriad of systems must communicate effectively ─ where you need it, and when you need it. Hundreds of disconnected systems result in tons of scattered data and disjointed reports, which for many practices, causes difficulty putting their EHR systems to optimal use. This creates the perfect storm for a decrease in practice efficiency, revenue and patient care.
Patient Care Information and Provider Data: Where EHR and Interoperability Intersect
The typical patient sees several authorized providers. A primary care doctor, several specialists (in different medical centers), at least one pharmacy, sometimes several labs, and a chosen hospital. Interoperability is the seamless exchange of patient information between these points of care.
An EHR that facilitates connections by removing data lock-in barriers enables better workflows and data transfers between different EHR systems and contributes to the growth of the interoperable ecosystem.
EHR and Interoperability meet at four critical areas of technology:
- How applications interact with users
- How systems communicate with each other
- How information is processed and managed
- How consumer devices integrate with other systems & applications
Functional interoperability allows you to consult with other providers and retrieve patient data on demand to you when it’s critical and immediate, reducing errors and misdiagnoses. Ultimately patients and communities benefit through the timely and targeted delivery of clinical data.
Increased Care Coordination
Treating patients with chronic / complex illnesses is made even more difficult without proper communication. These patients require multiple physicians and specialists, and it can crucial for providers to immediately access EHRs created by another doctor, which improves and expedites treatment for these chronically ill patients.
Without an interoperable EHR system, providers risk not having access to records held by other doctors and hospitals in a timely fashion from other providers, wasting time and energy.
Standardization of Data: Reduced Risk and Increased Efficiency
Practices suffering from a dysfunctional scheduling system and declining labor productivity are going to incur costs and lose revenue. It’s just fact. Aggregating and blending data properly allows a practice to leverage it to expose and correct inefficiencies in operations. Connecting these islands of information is the way to achieve a streamlined practice for providers and patients.
With this data-centric model, statistics evolve that help guide patient care decisions.
Data Exchange Fees
Some EHR vendors have made interoperability difficult and expensive by placing a surcharge on the exchange/transfer of data. The problem is built-in by design. Proprietary processes were a way to stay competitive for vendors. Now, interoperability is the road they need to be on if they want to stay in business.
The government has now placed more emphasis on healthcare information technology and working collectively toward the goal of this seamless healthcare information system. Nearly all EHR software vendors have jumped on board. Exorbitant fees will go the way of the dinosaurs, and providers will be more willing to adopt this technology to reap the benefits.
This is an especially good time to embrace this technology, since there are now financial incentives for providers who achieve interoperability through the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). All these changes are moving toward a time when interoperability is a fact, not a fantasy.
If you share this vision of optimal patient care and practice efficiency, take the first steps toward EHR interoperability. Examine the process to identify the hurdles. Find an EHR software partner that values interoperability – and wants to actually partner with you in becoming part of the solution.