Healthcare professionals and vendors all around the world can all agree that interoperability is important. But how to address it and properly improve it are the biggest challenges. The following are frameworks, ideas, and initiatives that are critical when it comes to improving interoperability.
By George Gray, CTO, and VP of Research & Development, Ivenix
Featured in MedCity News, November 24, 2019
Healthcare is an industry known for its remarkable innovation and talented workforce, but why is it that we consistently fall short when it comes to improving interoperability and patient experience?
A recent survey from the Center for Connected Medicine revealed that fewer than 40 percent of healthcare leaders feel they can successfully share healthcare data with other systems. One bright spot in the survey — a majority of respondents are answering this challenge by aligning their tech with interoperability in mind.
First, let’s call out one point where healthcare professionals and vendors all around the world can all agree: Interoperability is important. But how to address it and properly improve it are the biggest challenges.
The following are frameworks, ideas and initiatives that are critical when it comes to improving interoperability.
Strengthening the data-sharing need among health systems
One-third of hospital IT and business leaders say their hospitals’ and health systems’ data-sharing efforts are insufficient, according to the GE survey, shining light on a critical aspect of today’s healthcare IT challenges: Sharing and making use of information.
Today we’re seeing health systems launch extensive integration efforts of their hospitals, clinics and primary care physician (PCP) offices. When set up to operate within a single electronic medical record (EMR) system, this integration, though far reaching, is straight forward. However, as we all know, patients seek care outside their health system, walking into hospital that have no details about their condition or medical history. Without integration across disparate health systems, patient care suffers and becomes much more costly. A health information exchange (HIE) is one solution to support this level of integration but can be costly for health systems already struggling to streamline operations and reduce costs.
Understanding what true interoperability means within a health system
Interoperability within a health system is also a challenge. In addition to the exchange of information between disparate systems within the health system’s network, (chief information officers) CIOs are also being asked to establish some level of interoperability between EMRs and medical devices within their institution. One such example of interoperability in the infusion pump space is using barcode medication administration (BCMA) software within the EMR to automatically program a pump by scanning the barcode on the medication, the patient and the pump. Once programmed, the pump sends information back to the EMR, enabling the automatic documentation of the infusion therapy. This level of interoperability reduces the chance of programming errors while improving the documentation associated with these infused medications and solutions.
Solving the chicken-and-egg dilemma in interoperability
Though both hospitals and vendors would like to do more in the area of interoperability, progress tends to be limited until two or more vendors agree on the interface(s) needed to make that interoperability possible. As vendors consider their R&D investments each year, interface development doesn’t always make the cut unless an interfacing standard already exists and all involved parties have compatible interfaces available. Without some level of innovation and forward-thinking amongst the vendors, these interfaces may never come to be and many healthcare institutions may not even be aware that these types of solutions are even possible.
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