Healthcare interoperability refers to the ability of different technological systems and devices to share and exchange data – and interpret this data properly, to provide better patient outcomes to those who are receiving care from a medical institution.
Proper usage of healthcare interoperability is key for better patient outcomes, particularly as more data and information move to digital, cloud-based systems. But what are the biggest challenges and pitfalls of healthcare interoperability, and how can they be overcome? Find out in this article now.
1. Standardizing Patient Identification
Duplicate entries for patient data are a big problem in the world of healthcare. Even if a patient only gets medical care from one organization, it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple entries for the same individual – as there is no standard way to identify a single patient on an industry-wide basis.
Enterprise Master Patient Indexes (EMPIs) are a good start for standardizing patient identification. These systems use advanced databases and algorithms to eliminate duplicates and integrate patient information into a single data entry.
2. Creating Interoperability Standards Between Different Organizations – And The Entire Industry
Different organizations – such as hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities, hospices, and so forth – all have different standards for healthcare interoperability. This is often true, even when they’re owned by the same medical group.
One of the major challenges facing healthcare interoperability is this lack of standardization. Each organization must adopt standards that allow for easy transfer of data – and, in the long run, this must be applied to the entire medical industry, which will certainly be a difficult challenge.
3. Proper Data Management And Protection
Patient data is highly valuable, confidential, and protected by laws such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). While sharing data between healthcare providers is absolutely essential for healthcare interoperability, proper steps need to be taken to ensure that this patient data is protected, and abides by HIPAA and other related regulations.
Breaches of patient data can be catastrophic in their impact, and carry extremely stiff penalties, if your organization is found to be out of compliance with HIPAA. So, as we build an interoperable healthcare infrastructure, we must take care to make safety, security, and proper data management, a priority.
4. Adjusting To A Growing Number Of Data Sources
To properly implement a healthcare interoperability system across our entire network of health care facilities, we must be ready to adjust to an ever-growing number of different data sources.
Technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) medical devices and wearable sensors and monitors are still in their early days – and as they become more refined, they’re sure to become much more common. And, with their acceptance and increased usage, the amount of data that must be categorized, standardized and interpreted will grow exponentially.
We must foresee and accept this – and build our systems with the expectation that, in the future, we will be dealing with a much larger volume of data. IF we do not do this, our systems will not be adequate to handle the influx of new information, which will lead to sub-par patient outcomes.
Healthcare Interoperability Is A Challenge – And An Opportunity!
It may seem that true healthcare interoperability is full of challenges, and will be incredibly difficult to implement. And no, it won’t be easy. But behind every challenge is an opportunity – and if tech companies, medical providers, and other professionals work together, we can create a future where patients get better care through the power of standardized, easily-accessible data. And that’s something to look forward to.
What is the ONC’s Plans to Move this Forward?
The ONC recently had their annual meeting to discuss all that’s Healthcare IT, and healthcare Interoperability was top on their list of things to discuss and plan for. ONC Deputy National Coordinator for Operations Lisa Lewis told attendees that it is critical for regulators and the private sector “to work through the complicated infrastructure of policy, technology, and business drivers that can make it hard for us to achieve interoperability. With the public and private sectors working together, we can figure out interoperability for the American people. It is our responsibility to do so.”
Lewis continued and make it known that the ONC released this week its draft Strategy on Reducing Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs, which is designed to reduce administrative and regulatory burdens that can make health IT infrastructure, such as electronic health records (EHR), cumbersome to use. ONC is seeking public feedback on the draft strategy.