What is Interoperability in Healthcare and Why is it Important?
From robots performing complex surgeries to AI helping prevent and predict disease risk – when healthcare and technology come together, the outcomes are nothing short of incredible.
But why then is this same industry so disjointed and siloed that payers, providers, pharmacies, and more, struggle to safely and securely share patient information?
If we can create machine learning models that accurately predict disease spread…we should be able to build an integrated healthcare information system that makes sharing patient data simple and secure.
What is Interoperability in Healthcare?
Interoperability in healthcare enables various healthcare information technology (HIT) to communicate and exchange information.
Digging a little deeper, the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) has outlined four levels of interoperability:
Level 1 – Foundational
Foundational interoperability establishes interconnectivity between HIT systems, allowing for secure data exchange.
Level 2 – Structural
Structural interoperability defines the format, structure, and syntax of data exchange. Structuring data in this way allows healthcare information to move between systems without losing the clinical or operational meaning of the data.
Level 3 – Semantic
Semantic Interoperability combines standardized data structures, value sets, and vocabulary to simplify data interpretation. This standardization improves the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Level 4 – Organizational
Organizational Interoperability facilitates secure and timely data sharing through governance, policy, and organizational regulations.
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Why is Interoperability Important in Healthcare?
From a provider perspective, interoperability will give healthcare professionals easy access to more complete patient records, allowing for more informed care. Additionally, physicians will be able more easily share relevant information with specialists, other clinics, hospitals, and more.
For patients, current legislation and increasing interoperability across the entire healthcare network will lead to better care. Patients will have ownership and insight into their entire medical history.
At the core, the primary benefit is better care. But let’s explore how interoperability enables improved care.
Benefits of Healthcare Interoperability
Insight into Patients’ Complete Spectrum of Care
The goal of interoperability is to offer a holistic view of a patient’s medical history and needs, regardless of the different technologies their providers, pharmacies, or payers use.
Let’s look at a patient example. We will call her Sue.
Sue has a primary care doctor affiliated with one hospital system. She also sees a therapist and psychiatrist affiliated with a different system. She fills her prescriptions at whatever pharmacy happens to be on her way home from work. And stops into a quick clinic while visiting her kid at college.
The reality is, Sue is a very typical American medical patient.
But let’s say she takes a vacation. While driving home, she gets into an accident and is taken to the hospital. Interoperability will give her providers easy and timely access to her information regardless of system or regional boundaries.
New interoperability standards combined with health data exchange architectures and application interfaces allow for portable patient health information (PHI). Easier access to PHI will lead to better individual and global care.
Interconnected Points of Care
How patients are accessing healthcare is changing. COVID-19 has only expedited this transformation.
Whether it be telehealth or a digital pre-appointment screening, the “digital front door” creates new points of patient care leveraging the technology patients already use.
Interoperable systems allow for new, interconnected points of care and the ability to automate data exchange accordingly.
Improved Efficiency and Reduced Operational Costs
Experts say implementing interoperability will save the U.S. health system over $30 billion per year. How?
First, interoperable infrastructures enable automation. Providers can define trigger events (like following up on a referral visit) to initiate data exchange.
Additionally, with access to the full medical record, doctors reduce the risk of duplicating tests and performing redundant procedures.
What’s more, giving patients more control over their own data will reduce time spent on administrative tasks.
At the same time, interoperability optimizes efficiency, freeing up provider time and allowing practices to treat more patients, improve care quality, and increase margins.
Opportunities for Innovation
In addition to the impact on operational efficiencies and cost savings, interoperability also creates new opportunities for innovation.
Previously, moving into the healthcare market has been a tough sell for top innovators due to dispersed and highly customized environments. The disparity between systems made it challenging to integrate and scale new solutions.
Connected and more standardized systems create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovative technologists to push healthcare even further.
Where to Start Your Interoperability Transformation
Ultimately, interoperability is a win for the healthcare industry. But that does not mean the transformation is simple.
By working with a partner like KMS Technology, you get the best of both worlds: deep healthcare expertise and over a decade of experience building cutting-edge technology.
For providers and payers, our experts can guide your interoperability strategy, help you select the right technology, and/or execute your interoperability transformation.
Let’s work together.