Clinical Context: The Missing Piece of Healthcare Interoperability


Healthcare interoperability is commonly perceived as a technical challenge.

And the technical components of interoperability are important. In healthcare, there is a diverse array of solutions that need to be linked in order to ensure that data captured on one system can be read on another, and legacy systems can be integrated into the new model.

But even with wise investments in the right technology, there remains one crucial piece of interoperability that is frequently overlooked: Clinical context. In our latest white paper, Interoperability As a Business Challenge: How Context Has Equaled Technology in Importance, we asked a panel of experts to shed light on the role context must play in a successful interoperability initiative.

Clinical Context: The Right Data to the Right Person at the Right Time

It isn’t enough to merely make data available, says Doug Dietzman, executive director of Great Lakes Health Connect. Context is key. “We’re continually sending data from specialist to specialist without understanding what that data needs to say. What one doctor wants is different from what another doctor wants. We keep saying it’s a technical problem, but we haven’t defined interoperability from a clinical perspective.”

To fully realize the benefits of interoperability, it’s vital to add this clinical perspective to the discussion. After all, the end goal is to make data easy to use and effective — so it makes sense to consider how data will actually be used in the field.

“In practice, people largely view interoperability as data exchange,” says Tomer Levy, Vice President of Portfolio Solutions at Change Healthcare’s Imaging, Workflow, & Care Solutions. “In reality, however, that means just making more copies of the data — just using different databases. Interoperability must be broadened beyond data exchange; it’s not about creating more copies of data, but about consuming data in real time. It also needs to include the ability to modify and update data wherever it resides.”

These clinical considerations add a layer of complexity to interoperability initiatives, undeniably. However, keeping the clinical perspective in mind will ultimately lead to better systems that facilitate patient care through intelligent use of data.

To learn more about the clinical context of interoperability, download Interoperability As a Business Challenge: How Context Has Equaled Technology in Importance.

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