What Is Interoperability in Healthcare and Where Is It Headed?

by | Dec 19, 2022 | Healthcare

A prism of pictures showing fragmented scenes of technology and data interoperability in healthcare

Interoperability in healthcare has been in the news a lot lately. For instance, Jasper Health, an organization that guides cancer patients throughout the healthcare system, recently acquired an interoperability API platform. The purpose? To have meaningful patient data on hand and leverage advanced clinical insights to elevate the cancer support experience for patients.

But what is interoperability in healthcare? 

We’ll answer these questions and more. We’ll explore scenarios where interoperability is vital and the path to achieving true healthcare interoperability. Finally, we will look into the future of interoperability.

Key Takeaways:
  • Interoperability in healthcare enables varying information systems, devices, and applications to access, exchange, and interpret data effectively.
  • Interoperability can help reduce medical errors, improve patient safety, increase access to care, and reduce unnecessary costs.
  • Organizations must commit to securely sharing their data using robust messaging and encryption methods. 
  • Organizations must also ensure that the data is accurate and up to date. To do this, organizations must have policies to manage access and control who can view, edit, and delete patient information.
  • Soon, machine learning algorithms could analyze large amounts of patient data to identify patterns and trends in care delivery, leading to better clinical decision support.

What Is Interoperability in Healthcare?

Interoperability in healthcare enables varying information systems, devices, and applications to access, exchange, and interpret data effectively. Interoperability involves securely sharing and using patient information across providers, payers, government agencies, and other organizations with which patients interact.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made great strides in establishing standards for interoperability. Here are two of its efforts:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Interoperability and Patient Access Rule: This rule sets forth new requirements that providers must meet to ensure their electronic health record (EHR) systems are interoperable. It also requires providers to make their data accessible and user-friendly for patients, such as through an app or patient portal. The CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Rule also incentivizes providers to implement EHR technology that supports these standards.
  • The Common Agreement Template (CAT): These regulations help streamline the process of exchanging health information and make it easier for providers to meet interoperability standards. The CAT includes requirements that providers must meet to securely exchange data, such as governing which party is responsible for verifying the accuracy and completeness of the data exchanged.

Overall, interoperability in healthcare is a growing part of the industry as providers strive to improve care quality and outcomes for their patients. By implementing standards such as those established by HHS, providers can help ensure that their EHR systems are secure and can effectively exchange data with other organizations.

 

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Why Is Interoperability Important?

Interoperability has proven to help improve healthcare delivery in many different ways. It can:

  • Reduce medical errors
  • Improve patient safety
  • Increase access to care
  • Reduce unnecessary costs

It also improves the efficiency of care delivery by allowing clinicians to access data quickly and accurately, leading to better decisions and improved outcomes.

Here are three of the many scenarios where interoperability proves vital:

  1. A patient switches health insurance providers:  Interoperability between different health information systems enables the easy and quick transfer of patient data. This ability gives providers access to the patient’s vital medical history, reducing the chances of mistakes or delays in care due to a lack of complete information.
  2. A patient needs emergency care: Interoperability ensures speedy access to an accurate summary of a person’s medical history in an emergency. This data is crucial when a patient requires urgent care, as the healthcare provider needs up-to-date information to provide the best possible treatment.
  3. A doctor moves practices: Interoperability makes it easy for a doctor’s medical records to follow them wherever they go, saving significant time and money, as the doctor doesn’t have to start from scratch at their new practice. Also, patients benefit from continuity of care because they don’t need to repeat tests or treatments at their former doctor’s office.

 

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The Path to Interoperability in Healthcare

The path to achieving interoperability in healthcare is complex but achievable. First, organizations must be able to securely exchange patient information, regardless of the system or technology used. To do this, providers and vendors must ensure that their systems comply with industry data sharing and security standards. These standards include:

  • HL7 (Health Level Seven): A healthcare-specific messaging language that defines how to structure and send messages securely
  • FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): Establishes a standard set of data elements and APIs for exchanging health information
  • IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise): Protocols and profiles that enable seamless communication between different healthcare systems

The ability to securely exchange patient information isn’t enough. Organizations must commit to securely sharing their data using robust messaging and encryption methods. They must also ensure that the data is accurate and up to date. To do this, organizations must have policies to manage access and control who can view, edit, and delete patient information.

Finally, organizations should invest in healthcare interoperability solutions that facilitate data exchange between systems. These solutions often include integration tools such as middleware, cloud services, and application programming interfaces (APIs). These solutions help organizations create a unified platform for exchanging data between varying systems and applications.

 

The Future of Interoperability in Healthcare

Healthcare interoperability is a growing trend that will continue to shape the industry in the years to come. With advancing technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, interoperability could become even more advanced, allowing for faster data sharing between providers and health systems.

Additionally, machine learning algorithms could analyze large amounts of patient data to identify patterns and trends in care delivery, leading to better clinical decision support.

Interoperability could also result in better patient engagement, allowing patients to manage their own health and be more involved in their care decisions. It could provide access to real-time data for the patient and the provider, leading to improved communication between the two. Interoperability could also increase access to personalized treatments and services, tailoring care to the patient’s needs.

All of these possibilities point to a future in which interoperability will play a key role in transforming healthcare.

 

Improve Healthcare Interoperability with Gaine

Gaine is committed to helping healthcare organizations reach their goals of achieving complete interoperability and better patient care. Let us help you improve your health outcomes with our integrated solutions. 

Contact us today to learn more. 

 

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