Interoperability in Healthcare: The Path to Timely Services

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interoperability in healthcare

Interoperability in healthcare refers to how various information technology systems and software applications communicate, share data, and use the information that has been exchanged. It is defined as “the ability of a system to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system.”

In a healthcare setting, interoperability allows for the timely exchange of information between providers and patients. This can help to improve patient care, reduce costs, and optimize operations.

This blog post will discuss the basics of healthcare interoperability and how to achieve it with the right tools.

Table of Contents:

What Is Interoperability in Healthcare?

In the healthcare industry, the term “interoperability” describes the ability of IT systems and devices to work together. This relates to electronic health data access, integration, and utilization in a timely and secure manner.

This means that interoperability must occur at multiple levels, including:

  • connecting to and exchanging data with each other
  • sharing data through applications
  • exchanging data between various organizations

For example, a hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system should be able to interoperate with the laboratory testing equipment in its pathology department. The goal is to improve individual and overall health outcomes.

Here are examples of how interoperability occurs in healthcare:

  • A patient’s medical history is stored in an electronic health record (EHR). When the patient visits a new doctor, the doctor can access the patient’s EHR through a health information exchange (HIE). The doctor can then review the patient’s medical history and make treatment decisions.
  • A patient is discharged from the hospital and prescribed medication. The discharge summary and prescription are sent to the patient’s primary care provider through an HIE. The primary care provider can then follow up with the patient to ensure they are taking the medication as prescribed and that they are recovering well.
  • A patient receives lab results from their doctor. The doctor’s office uses an interoperable system to send the results to the patient’s EHR. The patient can then access the results through their EHR portal

Importance of Interoperability in Healthcare

Interoperability is vital in improving patient care and safety and reducing costs. When healthcare professionals can securely communicate information, everyone involved in their care has the most up-to-date information. This allows doctors and medical staff to:

Provide timely and coordinated care

An interconnected system of medical records can provide a fuller picture of a patient’s health and history. Clinicians can evaluate information faster when it’s readily available and well-organized. This speeds up decision-making, reduces errors, and facilitates history-based treatment.

Ensure accountability

Patients have more control over their health data in an interoperable healthcare system. They can track their progress over time, better manage chronic conditions, and make informed decisions about their care. This gives them a voice in their care planning and can help ensure they receive the best possible treatment. This level of accountability can help improve patient outcomes and establish trust.

Avoid duplicate procedures

When a patient sees multiple specialists, they may order the same test because they are unaware that it has already been done. If a patient’s records are available to all providers, duplicate procedures can be avoided. For example, the system would alert providers when a patient has already gone through a recent blood test, as the results may also be used to diagnose another illness.

Prevent drug interactions

If a patient is taking multiple medications, there is a risk of harmful drug interactions. When providers can access a patient’s complete medication history, they can avoid prescribing medications that may react with each other.

Reduce medical errors

According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that medical errors cost the US healthcare system approximately $20 billion yearly. One way to reduce medical errors is to have interoperability between systems. This way, information can be entered once and then accessed by all authorized providers.

Identify health trends faster

Researchers can use interoperability to identify health patterns. When patient data is available in a central location, it can be analyzed to look for trends. They can then develop strategies to prevent or treat specific conditions. For example, if there is an outbreak of a particular disease, interoperability can help identify the source quickly. This, in turn, protects the public’s health.

Reduce physician burnout

Healthcare interoperability helps reduce the amount of paperwork for staff, eliminating the need for manual data entry, and minimizing the number of tasks that require manual touches. This, in turn, prevents physician burnout. Interoperability solutions lessen labor-intensive activities, prevent repetitive testing, and eliminate physician burden by allowing health data exchange.

How to Achieve Healthcare Interoperability

Implementing healthcare interoperability requires adopting and optimizing EHRs and HIE services. Here are interoperable healthcare solutions that you may consider:

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)

FHIR is one of the most popular interoperability standards. It stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. The FHIR standard is developed by HL7 (Health Level Seven) International.

This interoperability standard can be used to exchange EHR data using API. FHIR organizes the structure of where data should live and how it should look, making them identifiable across different systems.

By standardizing how data is represented, FHIR makes it possible for different systems to “talk” to each other and exchange information. This interoperability is essential for providing coordinated care, as it allows different care providers to access the same patient records and share information more easily.

APIs in healthcare

API is simply the means by which different software applications can communicate with each other and exchange data. Every time you use platforms like Facebook, Google, or Amazon, you are using APIs.

In healthcare, APIs can be used to exchange patient information between different EHR systems. This interoperability allows for more coordinated and efficient delivery of care, as providers can access the same patient records regardless of which EHR system they use.

AI systems

AI can be used in healthcare to help providers make better decisions about patient care. For example, AI-enabled EHRs can help identify patients who are at risk for a certain condition and alert the provider.

AI can also be used to help providers make decisions about which treatment is best for a patient. These systems can help to process large amounts of data, providing insights that could potentially save lives.

AI systems can also help improve interoperability in healthcare. For example, AI-powered chatbots can help patients schedule appointments, get test results, and find the right provider for their needs.

Encrypted digital forms

Digital forms are another way to improve interoperability in healthcare. By using digital forms, providers can avoid having to re-enter patient information into different systems. Keep in mind that these forms must be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

When patients are confident that their privacy is being well-protected, they are more likely to trust and cooperate with their care providers. Trust can go a long way in improving the coordination and delivery of care. This saves time and reduces the chances of errors.

Achieve Healthcare Interoperability with Fill

From HIPAA-compliant forms to contract management to document automation, Fill offers numerous solutions to support and develop your organization’s interoperability strategy.

Fill is the best electronic signature app for healthcare that integrates document signing into any EHR or EMR system easily. This powerful app securely stores, signs, tracks, and manages healthcare information in a centralized database.

With Fill, you can streamline your data management lifecycle at highly scalable volumes. Its developer-friendly API lets healthcare institutions collect digital information legally without any coding required.

Sign up today and see why Fill is the best contract management app for healthcare and start providing timely care to your clients!

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