A Healthcare Minute: Why Interoperability Is Crucial


Editor’s Note: The following article was recently published on ITN website and is reprinted here with permission.

Between 2010 and 2013, U.S. hospitals spent $47 billion annually on information technology (HIT), according to the American Hospital Association.  In 2014, nearly all (97 percent) of the hospitals tracked by the U.S. government possessed a certified electronic health records systems, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT.  But, because patients use multiple providers in multiple locations and these locations may be in hospitals, physician offices, post-acute care facilities, pharmacies, retail clinics, labs and imaging facilities, it is difficult to put all the relevant medical information in the hands of those who need it.

Years of IT specialism has spawned disparate systems driven by particular strategies for handling specific types of data. Imaging specialists benefitted first through picture archiving and communications systems.  Other specialists and general practitioners followed with electronic medical records systems.

Today, as data are being spread across the enterprise and among specialties, the strategies that guided the acquisition, storage and transmission of specific types of data are being homogenized to allow access to caregivers in multiple  departments and across enterprises regardless of the type of department or whether those data were collected in in- or outpatient facilities.

And so they should.  Patient health, after all, is the only reason these data are collected.  Care coordination facilitates good healthcare and helps keep a lid on costs by optimizing drug expenditures, testing, and billing, according to research published in 2003 by Excerpta Medica.

It makes sense, therefore, that clinical data be acquired and shared interoperably and seamlessly in forms usable by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, other staff and patients. This is particularly needed in cardiology, in which patients may be examined and treated at multiple facilities and as both in- and outpatients. This has led some providers to seek out a “single-stack solution” — a single healthcare IT system that handles all facets of diagnosis and treatment.

To serve the patient, data must be accurate. That accuracy must be maintained during the exchange. And the transmission must be quick.

Critically important data must not be held up by methods needed to ensure its security, for example, its encryption and decryption – or because the caregiver doesn’t know the password.

Efficiency is important also for the provider to remain financially viable.  Patients must be managed effectively despite continuing reductions in reimbursements as medical practice shifts from fee-based to value-based care.

Effective and efficient data exchange is crucial for the patient to benefit and the provider to survive.


To learn more about interoperability, Contact Change Healthcare today. Or visit us at HIMSS, at the Change Healthcare Booth #4202.

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