Three Ways Healthcare Can Get Its Interoperability Act Together

Posted by Patrick Yee on 8/3/16 8:30 AM

What were you doing in 2006?

That’s when the American Health Information Management Association published an article on interoperability and noted that “Healthcare’s hottest topic finally has two things it has badly needed: plain language and a sense of urgency.”

Ten years later and surely millions of pages of plain talk later, it appears the author’s nod to urgency may have been a bit misplaced. Granted, healthcare interoperability is a complex topic. Just ask the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

HIMSS defined interoperability back in 2005 as “the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.” That early definition has evolved into one that today includes an emphasis on systems being able to not only exchange information, but actually use the information once it has been exchanged.

Emphasizing usability of the information exchanged is an important distinction. I see it as right in line with the U.S. government’s shift away from focusing solely on how healthcare is delivered and toward what healthcare outcomes are achieved. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology obviously agrees, going so far as to state in the recently released roadmap that interoperability should occur “without special effort on the part of the user.”

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Topics: Healthcare IT, EHRs, Interoperability

The Boost Your EMR Needs to Be a Care Coordination Machine: a Healthcare Executive’s View

Posted by Wayne Sensor on 5/19/16 11:01 AM

More than a decade ago when the healthcare industry began transitioning from paper charts to electronic medical records (EMRs), leaders of large hospitals and health systems, including me, expected to see at least some return on investment. Yet over the years, it has become apparent EMRs alone cannot produce the clinical and financial returns once anticipated. Today’s EMRs need a technology booster shot to take them from electronic repositories of patient data to a vehicle that supports the free exchange of protected patient health information among care providers and even with patients themselves. If they get the boost they need, I believe EMRs will be the lone platform needed to fundamentally transform fee-for-service medicine to fully coordinated patient care.

So where do we start? First, leaders should accept that their EMR system is a living, breathing infrastructure platform which will require regular updates and investments to effectively manage healthcare information in a complex, constantly changing healthcare environment. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that our idea of care coordination is changing. Today, providers and payors are thinking and talking about “episodes of care” instead of discrete procedures. The data sharing that’s necessary to ensure continuity of care requires interoperability, and unfortunately post-acute facilities rarely use the same EMR system as the referring hospital. Bottom line, not everyone can read or access the information they need to fulfill their role.

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Topics: Healthcare IT, EHRs, Healthcare Technology Solutions

Interoperability Helps—But is it Enough?

Posted by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on 3/7/16 11:23 AM

During a keynote address during the HIMMS 2016 Conference and Exhibition, HHS
Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced a broad industry initiative to improve health data interoperability, information sharing and patient engagement. Heavy hitters that have taken the pledge include HHS, Epic and Cerner.

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Topics: Healthcare IT, EHRs

EHRs Don't Go Far Enough: It's Time to Put the Whole Patient into the Equation

Posted by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on 7/9/15 3:31 PM

Many believed the electronic health record (EHR) would be the panacea to managing patient medical information. While these systems have many merits, the extent of data sharing capability necessary to ensure continuity of care isn't among them. In fact, EHRs were never designed with interoperability in mind. So, what is the next step that needs taken to be sure patients' care is coordinated, compliant and effective?

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Topics: Care Coordination, EHRs