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What is Healthcare Interoperability and How to Achieve It?

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19-Feb-2021 Facebook Image Linkedin Image Twitter Image

The availability of information, whenever needed, is significantly vital in the healthcare industry. The healthcare technologies are bringing better care and patients’ experience with healthcare interoperability.


Introduction

Remember playing telephone games using a wire to alert our friends it was time to play or time to go out. The exchange of information during that time seemed important. But the health information exchange among the healthcare community is pivotal.


Healthcare organizations, practitioners, and providers suffer a great deal of inefficiency with the lack of a proper system to exchange patient’ information. Along with them, the quality of care deteriorates, and diagnosis takes time; that can do lots of damage than we can imagine. 


Forty-six years back, when the first electronic health record system came into existence (in 1972), it was transformative in healthcare. There is no debate that since then we have taken the great leap and bound in clinical innovations and technologies, Yet, the seamless exchange of information is still a pain point for the health industry. That’s where the concept of interoperability in healthcare comes into the picture. So, let’s find out. 

What exactly is interoperability in healthcare management?

The HIMSS Integration and Interoperability Steering Committee (I&I) was formed in September 2004 context to the context of a National Health Information Network (NHIN) defines healthcare interoperability as:


“Interoperability in healthcare management means the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.”


The definition of I&I talks about six dimensions of total interoperability in the healthcare sector that includes uniform movement of healthcare data, uniform presentation of data, uniform user control, safeguarding data security & integrity, protection against confidentiality, and assurance of common degree of system service quality.


There are four levels of interoperability in healthcare information technology:

  1. Foundational: It refers to the capability of data exchange via an information system without any interpretation. The process in which the system builds basic requirements of information exchange with two-party. 


  1. Structural: It is a little complicated in foundation interoperability. It is more related to the syntax of data i.e. structure and format. When data is transferred from one system to another, it can interpret the information but it will remain preserved and unaltered. 


  1. Semantic: As the word suggests it is related to complete interpretation of the information. Semantic interoperability is the highest level in which the system can interpret the data according to vocabulary and structure and use it too. Electronic exchange of patients information summary among care providers and other authorized parties via electronic health records (EHR) and other systems enhance efficiency, safety, and quality of care.


  1. Organization: It is mostly related to the overall workflow within the organization. It ensures that all the operations are integrated with the system and provide a seamless workflow environment.


Benefits of Interoperability:


Medical Software Companies

  1. Improved quality of care

With better and on-time information exchange, care providers can access the patients’ information at the time of consultation. They can learn the patients’ previous medical records, allergies, patterns, and other medical records. That can help them provide a more specific diagnosis that ultimately leads to improved quality of healthcare and patients’ experience. 


  1. Enhanced productivity & efficiency

It is undoubtedly the fasted way to exchange information. It saves doctors and nurses time in collecting patient's information, doing all the paperwork. Whereas, smooth interoperable healthcare software solutions providers can get all the reports in one place and gain the info they want. It reduces time wasted in mundane activities and increases efficiency.


  1. Better security of patients’ data

As we discussed in the levels of interoperability, we can see the interoperability is a well-designed and well-structured process. It makes sure that the data exchange between the systems and the healthcare community is safe and can not be tampered with. 


  1. Reduced Cost

According to a calculation done by the West Health Institute (WHI), which testified in front of the U.S. Congress, that system interoperability has the potential to save the U.S. healthcare system more than $30 billion a year. 


How to achieve successful interoperability in healthcare organizations?

Achieving interoperability in the customized healthcare software solution is necessary for the individual practitioner as well as hospitals. But due to working in too many silos create obstacles in achieving it.


Electronic Health Records (EHR) are a key to achieve functional interoperability. Here comes the question of what to look for in vendors to meet your expectations.


Connectivity across all channels: True interoperability is achieved when the software is capable to communicate with all kinds of healthcare entities. It includes hospitals, labs, pharmacies, health information exchange (HIE), ambulatory settings, etc.


Seamless information flow: Data exchange across the healthcare community should be aligned, seamless and hassle-free. The system should be able to gather information in all formate such as; appointment summaries, demographics reports, clinical documents, lab reports, test results, orders, financial data, and more in a user-friendly manner.


Conclusion

The Healthcare industry is gaining technological advancements in this era. With upcoming domineering technologies (AI, AR, VR), it will become more cutting edge. The expectations of people are only going to increase. Therefore, it is high time that the healthcare industry should start taking interoperability seriously, mitigate challenges associated with it, and get ready for the future of healthcare.

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