The healthcare industry is changing rapidly. Advances in medical research and technology have enabled providers to provide care for an ever-growing number of patients.
The resulting demand for healthcare has also grown exponentially, placing an enormous strain on the current healthcare system.
Healthcare information technology (HIT) is a key component of this ongoing transformation, facilitating data sharing and integration between different providers,
payers, and vendors to ensure that high-quality care is provided efficiently and effectively across the entire continuum of care.
This article provides an overview of interoperability in the healthcare sector as well as specific examples where interoperability has been successfully implemented.
What is interoperability?
Interoperability is the ability of systems and components to communicate, exchange information, and work together.
Examples of interoperability include electronic health records (EHRs), health insurance claims, telemedicine services, data analytics, and patient engagement.
Relatedly, interoperability is often used to describe the ability for systems to exchange health information.
Health information itself is often vague and imprecise. To improve outcomes, data must be standardized and tagged for specific purposes.
Interoperability allows disparate systems to communicate and work together to produce a better end result. This can be helpful for individuals or entire communities.
Interoperability can be achieved in a number of ways. The most common method is to create a standard. Standards are technical guidelines that outline how data and information should be formatted.
Creating a standard gives systems a shared language and allows them to communicate more efficiently and effectively.
Coordination and communication between healthcare systems
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As the healthcare sector transitions through digital transformation, the ability to coordinate and communicate between different healthcare systems is necessary to ensure that high-quality care is delivered efficiently and effectively.
Discussing and defining applicable standards is only half of the solution. To put it into practice, standards need to be implemented and implemented consistently across different systems.
In the digital transformation environment, it is important to have a clear view on who is responsible for each piece of the puzzle.
Health Information Exchange is an important component of interoperability that allows organizations to exchange data and information, including electronic health records.
It enables the secure electronic transfer and sharing of patient records between health care providers, health care organizations, or health care clearinghouses.
This increases the efficiency and improves the quality of care by improving communication between providers, health care organizations, and health care clearinghouses.
Health Information Exchange (HIE)
Health Information Exchange (HIE) is an advanced technology-enabled process that provides secure, authenticated and reliable access among health information technology (HIT) systems via an established standards-based protocol.
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HIE helps facilitate communication between different health systems. It can be used to provide medical information, such as appointments, tests, and procedures,
between different providers, and to send critical medical data, such as medications, test results, and discharge instructions, between different health systems.
HIE is particularly helpful in situations where patients receive care from multiple providers.
For instance, patients receiving treatment at a hospital or a doctor’s office may receive care from different specialists.
In this case, each specialist’s patient information would need to be transferred to the other health system.
Smart Health Records and Electronic Health Records (EHR)
With the widespread adoption of EHRs, a significant challenge has been the lack of interoperability between legacy electronic health records (EHRs) and new smart EHRs.
For example, a patient may have to see a particular health care provider or visit a particular health care facility on a certain date depending on their health condition.
Thus, a smart EHR would help a patient in this regard. The patient can access their health information and add notes about their health condition, treatment, and progress.
In this regard, a smart EHR can be viewed as a digital health assistant. As the adoption of smart EHRs continues to increase,
the ability to exchange data and information between legacy EHRs and smart EHRs is necessary to ensure that high-quality care is delivered efficiently and effectively.
HIE can help facilitate communication between different smart EHRs. It can also be used to send data and information between legacy EHRs and smart EHRs.
For instance, a smart EHR may need to receive medical data from a legacy EHR to provide services such as creating a medication chart or charting vital signs.
Healthcare APIs and Real-Time Collaboration
Healthcare APIs are a type of software that allow for the exchange of health data between different systems. Using an API, different systems can send and receive data,
including health data, and create applications that either integrate or interoperate. Real-Time Collaboration is a form of business process mapping that uses technology to create “blueprints” of how various activities (e.g., clinical encounters,
lab test results, or medical procedures) are connected. With this information, the healthcare system can improve the accuracy and timeliness of patient care to ultimately improve patient outcomes.
In today’s complex healthcare environment, access to accurate, relevant, and up-to-date data is critical for treating patients.
Different systems, such as EHRs, smart EHRs, and other emerging technologies, need to be able to communicate and exchange data.
These systems can be integrated or interoperated via an established standards-based protocol such as Health Information Exchange.
Through Health Information Exchange, patients can receive high-quality care from a variety of providers, have access to a variety of resources, and receive timely health information.
With the increasing need for interoperability and the growing number of stakeholders using medical information technology,
it is essential to understand the key components of HIT, and the extent of their ability to integrate and interoperate.