Graphic of healthcare professionals using tablet devices

Interoperability: The Hot Healthcare IT Topic

16 Jul 2015 by Desiree Samson

Healthcare is always a topic in the U.S. — from accessibility to policy — and with the 2015 Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) deadline and the 2016 elections, the spotlight on healthcare is going to heat up even more.

The industry is shifting as intelligent technology takes root in hospitals, and as patients become increasingly more informed and involved in their personal health. A part of what technology aims to do, and is doing, for the industry, is to make it more cohesive and simplistic, across the board — the ability to share patient records with ease, the growth of telehealth for remote patients, securing patient data, etc.

But when healthcare policy changes — even when it is absolutely necessary, and for more accountable and better patient care — the question of “how?” is always present. This question is also present when a hospital is looking to seamlessly upgrade its healthcare IT. And a big part of that “how” is one word, “interoperability.” If “x” is implemented, how will it affect or interact with “y?”

In an interview with SearchHealthIT, Michael McCoy, M.D., ONC’s first chief information officer, said he “sees interoperability as the most important work remaining in healthcare.” He believes that it is “the prospect of lower costs for providers and consumers.” Interoperability speaks directly to a hospital’s, or health practitioner’s, overhead, as well as the out-of-pocket costs for patients — both of which directly affect patient outcomes.

The move to EHRs, either from government deadlines or a desire for more technology integration, is not as simple as deciding to make the change. It is not a flip of the switch. From cost to implementation, healthcare providers have to decide how to move forward: What is the best software to use? Will the healthcare records be accessible on multiple devices? Will the devices I have work together? The questions go on.

“You may have implemented touch technology throughout your hospital along with a software that fulfills the EHR requirements, but if those devices do not interact with each other, or accept online patient records from another hospital or healthcare provider, then your hospital is not operating at full capacity; in fact, it exposes the hospital to risk,” says Kristopher Blasi, sales market leader of information products and services sales, for healthcare at Insight U.S. “A fully integrated solution that will also ensure your information is secure and accessible is the key to all healthcare providers’ success. Without interoperability being a focus, healthcare IT becomes disjointed.”

Interoperability. It’s not a word that rolls off the tongue. Nor is it an easy processes. But it is vital nonetheless. HIMSS breaks down interoperability into three levels: foundational, structural and semantic — with semantic being at the highest level of interoperability and necessary for EHRs.

“This level of interoperability supports the electronic exchange of patient summary information among caregivers and other authorized parties via potentially disparate EHR systems and other systems to improve quality, safety, efficiency and efficacy of healthcare delivery.”

Interoperability extends past the walls of a healthcare provider. While it is important to have cohesion within your hospital or office, it is just as important for sharing patient data. So as government policy and healthcare IT come into play, interoperability has to be at the forefront of that conversation.

At Insight, we can assist you at every stage — from the delivery of real-time patient information to the growing use of EHRs. Contact us at 1.800.INSIGHT or visit us online.