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Healthcare Interoperability: Can Someone Translate?

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July 04, 2018

Healthcare Interoperability: Can Someone Translate?

Jennifer Morency

picture Healthcare Interoperability: Can Someone Translate?

Technology has crept its way into almost all industries, especially the healthcare industry. It has advanced the way clinicians work, interact with their colleagues and patients and ultimately paved the way for exciting medical advances.

This has also led to the creation of massive amounts of data, which is increasingly growing. There is no such thing as too much data, but there is such a thing as having lots of data in different places. This is where interoperability comes in. It essentially refers to the ability of various technology to exchange information and understand data from one software or device to another.

Breaking Access Barriers

What is the ultimate healthcare technology dream? One word: interoperability.

Imagine an industry where all tech talks to one another, you can easily transfer important data from one system to another and access any and all data without restrictions and everything is HIPAA-compliant.

That is exactly what CMS’ Promoting Interoperability (PI) is trying to do, little by little. Through the implementation of strict regulations that EHR vendors and clinicians need to follow and attest for, the move towards healthcare interoperability is in the works.

Promoting Interoperability, within the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) of MACRA, is the new Meaningful Use Stage 3. The initiative is to make interoperability less burdensome by emphasizing measures that require providers and patients to exchange health information between one another and make it easier for patients to electronically obtain their medical records through provider incentives.

With the use of certified EHR technology, patients and clinicians have the potential to improve the flow of information between them through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs).

In a press release, CMS introduces their PI and new focus on empowering patients and reducing administrative burden:

Patients could collect their health information from multiple providers and potentially incorporate all of their health information into a single portal, application, program, or other software. This can support a patient’s ability to share their information with another member of their care team or with a new doctor, which can reduce duplication and provide continuity of care.

Patients want to access their own data and providers can receive incentives for this through technology they are already using.

EHR Interoperability

The technology CMS is pushing is the 2015 Edition of Meaningful Use Stage 3 (Promoting Interoperability) for electronic health records (EHR).

However, the issue still remains that clinicians not using the same EHR have difficulty relaying patient data to colleagues. In fact, according to a 2018 Black Book survey, 36 percent of surveyed physicians reported having interoperability issues with their EHR, with 85 percent saying they relied on their core EHR to enable interoperability. Hindering the exchange of patient health records with other providers, the lack of interoperability between EHRs will certainly be a problem to address in the near future.

When exchanging healthcare data, without interoperability, clinicians can encounter patient care problems. The same survey revealed that 25 percent of physicians that received electronic patient records could not use most of the information as it came from outside sources. In addition, 27 percent of clinicians or medical administrators stated that the data was not received or presented in a useful format, making it more difficult to correctly utilize the valuable information.

As the healthcare industry as a whole works towards improving overall interoperability, what we can expect to see in the near future is development in artificial intelligence (AI), improved access to patient data, and changes and updates to federal regulations.