Healthcare Interoperability Means More than a Number, It’s the Key to Triple Aim

Abhinav Shashank
Tue 03 July 2018

The term ‘healthcare interoperability’ has been making rounds in health care space for quite some time. Ever since the advancement of health information technology, the importance of seamless data exchange has reached an all-time high. It not just concerns providers and payers, but also patients– the healthcare consumers who are at the center of care continuum.

Many organizations are working on breaking down quality into different components and introducing initiatives aimed at achieving the IHI’s Triple Aim of improving the population health, reducing per capita cost of care, and enhancing the patient experience of care. However, is it possible to achieve the Triple Aim without ensuring a smooth and secure data flow, openly among every member in the network?

Value of ‘real’ interoperable systems in today’s healthcare

Establishing interoperability is not just limited to solving the technical aspects of data sharing, but also enhancing the social aspects of promoting members to share their data. The lack of availability of right data limits the ability to provide care at the right time and affects the overall health outcomes of the patient. Every segment, which contributes towards the Triple Aim of healthcare, is affected in its own way with the absence of adequate data sharing mechanisms:

  • Providers: With no crucial information, their hands remain tied at their back, as they are unable to correctly understand the actual health condition of the patient. They are unable to effectively access and exchange vital information present on different platforms.
  • Payers: Even though payers often play a passive role in care journey of a patient, they are a significant element in ensuring a better care-delivery mechanism. Due to the absence of relevant clinical information about patients, they are unable to address the existing coding gaps and have to go through exhausting processes of manual chart-retrievals.
  • Healthcare Organizations: For organizations having multiple sites at different locations and data coming from other facilities such as labs, pharmacies, finance and operations teams, the lack of interoperability is a nightmare. Currently, more than half the ACOs struggle with the collection and sharing of data while they traverse to a value-based ecosystem.
  • Patients: Being the ultimate beneficiary of healthcare, patients suffer the most on the account of inadequate interoperability. A patient carrying his/her information on every visit, undergoing the same set of tests, and not having access to critical information about his health are a result of flawed data sharing systems.

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Seamless data sharing— how far are we?

As one of the members of this nation’s healthcare, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked, “Why aren’t the systems able to talk to each other?” or, technically, “Why is ‘true’ interoperability still a far-fetched dream?” Exactly the same thing I wonder every time that when social ads show us things based on our past searches and other sectors can share information in real-time, then why are healthcare organizations still relying on same fax machines and letters? This is despite the fact that everyone keeps on focusing on how important a single data platform is.

Recently, I met a physician who told that he had to devote almost 4-5 hours a day– just looking for reports, lab results, patient’s medical history, and relaying information. The time that is spent wasting on looking for information could have been the time spent in improving the health of patients. And the most astonishing part— this situation is not something that can’t be improved.

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Moving beyond the countless numbers of healthcare interoperability

Whenever we test the level of interoperability achieved by any healthcare organization, we start focusing into the countless statistics such as the number of documents available, annual transactions by physicians, and many more. However, is this really the right way to measure interoperability? Triple Aim is neither confined nor defined by these numbers, it requires something more substantial.

It is really difficult to quantify such measures due to the absence of uniform industry standards. Numbers are, undoubtedly, the best way to measure an organization’s progress towards achieving true interoperability, but if the comparison is among dissimilar things such as these measures, how can we truly gauge that success?

The scale to measure the success of interoperability is different for every member and is to be addressed accordingly. The true achievement can be defined only when providers have access to every relevant data, when payers do not have to struggle for clinical information, and when patients do not have to worry about taking every single piece of paper with them.

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Leveraging the best case to boost interoperability

Interoperability is a necessity- whether it be patient-provider, or provider-provider, or payer-provider scenario. Availability of data is the primary requirement to realize the dream of true healthcare interoperability. By integrating data from multiple sources and feeds into a single unified healthcare data platform, we can create a holistic picture of the patient health and ensure proper sharing of complete information from one facility to another.

Once every information is made to be available uniformly to every member, they can have access to updated records for each patient regarding their medical conditions. Care teams will be able to leverage these records to measure the impact of care plans and take necessary steps towards improving the overall care process. Payers will not have to struggle with retrieving charts from providers, rather they will have real-time access to every patient information. And for patients, quality healthcare will not be something to struggle for.

Efficiency— The key to improved outcomes

Healthcare systems are flooded with crucial information, but limitations in utilizing that data turn them useless. Today, efficiency in healthcare interoperability is not just determined by the ability to share data, but by the level to which it enabled us to understand the patient. If even one life is saved because of a provider having access to all the crucial data needed to understand the medical history of the patient and take necessary steps, that is when true success in interoperability is achieved. Rest every metric to gauge the success of interoperability is a mere paperwork.

Webinar by Dr Devid Nace, MD on Healthcare Interoperability

To learn how a unified healthcare data platform can open up the world of ‘real’ healthcare data interoperability, get a demo.

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