In the healthcare industry where myriad technology systems like EMRs, EHRs, healthcare wearables, remote monitoring devices, etc. are being used day in and day out, enabling and ensuring interoperability between these systems is still a grave challenge. Although the industry is leveraging these systems to the brim, they often operate in isolation with minimal or no interoperability between them. About 80% of all serious medical errors involve miscommunication during care transitions. So, what is health data interoperability? And why is it coming more important than ever now?

The Need for Health Data Interoperability

The aim of modern healthcare technologies is to increase the value that can be gained from electronic health data and improve patient outcomes. In the medical world, health data interoperability refers to the extent to which healthcare systems and devices can exchange and interpret data across the healthcare organization, including labs, ICUs, operation theaters, pharmacies, clinicians office and patients – irrespective of the type or make. For systems to be interoperable, they must conform to certain standards that permit data to be shared (preferably in real-time) and presented such that it can be understood by the end user.

A study reveals that the current method of exchanging patient health information amounts to a whopping $17,160 of annual expense for a single-clinician practice. In order to accelerate the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities at low costs, effective health data interoperability is a requisite that enables health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries. Health data interoperability ensures that care is delivered based on an integrated view of patient health information. By having a seamless, interoperable data stream, providers can access the necessary information from the patient’s health record and ensure the patient gets the right care, from the right provider and at the right time – avoiding costly emergency visits, unnecessary hospital re-admissions, and pointless prescriptions.

Health Data Interoperability Challenges

Although health data interoperability is intended to boost healthcare outcomes, it is difficult to achieve. Interoperability between health IT systems, whether internal or external, is as much about policies and standards as it is about technological capability.

  • Although at the most basic level, data is not all that complex, as new capabilities, features, technologies, and innovations emerge, over the years, the data ends up becoming rigid and locked into silos.
  • Today’s health systems and embedded medical devices monitor and control multiple aspects of patient health. However, each of these systems handles different type, format, and structure of data based on the different types of sensors and technology they operate on. Do you know? 3 of every ten tests are re-ordered because the results are not found.
  • Because of this, the data generated is not readily interoperable or seamlessly accessible to all stakeholders which makes it challenging for healthcare practitioners to make effective diagnosis and treatment decisions.

As rising health care spending guzzle every nation’s budget and as care quality alone becomes the measure of success, the meaning and importance of health data interoperability have changed. For improved healthcare outcomes, it is imperative for these systems to ensure health data interoperability that provides an integrated view of heterogeneous data for improved analysis, data sharing, and decision-making.

What You Can Do

Enabling the sharing of protected health information from one system to another is not as simple as sharing a Twitter feed. Here’s how you can enable the interoperability process and advance electronic health system integration.

  • Define business case: Start by defining the business case or the need to exchange and share health information. Document current workflows, business processes, and privacy and security rules.
  • Understand applicable standards: Overcoming the problem of incompatible data requires the adoption of standards that facilitates the exchange. Evaluate industry and national standards and understand which ones will be applicable in your case.
  • Create interoperability guides: Once the standards are in place, create a robust interoperability implementation guide with instructions on how to share and use health information in a secure and compatible manner.
  • Enable seamless data flow: Evaluate the health information exchange environment and design the functional and system data flow design. Specify protocols, and configure interfaces for seamless exchange of health information.
  • Test and validate: Use effective data assurance tools to carry out validation checks on the electronic health information to ensure the data complies with the interoperability implementation guides. Identify data quality errors and issues through reports and determine if patient data can be accepted and processed.
  • Ensure continuous support: Continuously monitor and support systems to ensure seamless interoperability; continuous evaluation can help in providing recommendations for improved efficiencies.

Health Data Interoperability for Improved Care

As the demands of the healthcare industry grow, it has become crucial for organizations to equip themselves with tools that promote health data interoperability. For this, data needs to be efficiently collected for effective diagnosis, standardized for seamless exchange across those disparate systems, and tailored to support the needs of individuals. With expectations of patients rising, accessible, transparent, and meaningful data is what provides the foundation for personalized care. Since healthcare is no longer about a single blood test or a lone MRI scan but more about the overall health over a prolonged period, health data interoperability is what will drive healthcare organizations towards optimal patient-centric care outcomes.