Interoperability was a key theme at HIMSS19 in February at Orlando, with speakers and demonstrators showcasing the interoperability imperative for connecting health and care.
During the conference, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) along with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released two interoperability-related rule proposals as part of continuing efforts to enforce health data sharing. One rule had to do with clamping down on information blocking. Examples of information blocking include refusing to provide patients their record information electronically, and not transferring patient records who are changing physicians or moving between health plan types.
The proposed rules also called on the healthcare industry to adopt open data-sharing technologies, and to standardize Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) data formats and elements as well as application programing interfaces (APIs). Standardization will help individuals securely access structured and unstructured electronic health information (EHI) formats using smartphones and other mobile devices.
Why Interoperability Is Important?
Information sharing is at the heart of healthcare interoperability. While most hospitals and providers today have electronic health record (EHR) platforms in place to communicate within their own health system, many still struggle internally sharing data among departments and facilities. This may be due to using a variety of vendors with disparate systems that don’t talk the same language. They exist, for the most part, as islands of information that are not bridged. The problem becomes even more exasperating when you need to exchange information with physician groups, affiliate partners or population management organizations outside of your internal community – and they all use a wide variety of incompatible systems.
True interoperability is data flowing seamlessly across the entire healthcare continuum of care. This means people from health information exchanges, accountable care organizations, home-health groups, patient-centered medical homes, or traditional hospitals and health systems all have free access to shared information that can help them make better decisions at the point of care. Interoperability facilitates connections and integrations across these systems regardless of the data’s origin, destination or the application employed. Data is usable and readily available to share without additional intervention by the end user.
Improving Interoperability Within Your Organization
Managed IT services are fast becoming a preferred method to unlock silos of information to meet the demands of value-based care and consumerism in healthcare. Here are three that can provide the essentials you need to accelerate interoperability and security across your organization.
- Cloud – While many healthcare organizations are already taking advantage of accessing data through the cloud, staying ahead of rapid change is requiring health organizations to work even faster and smarter. Managed cloud services take the load off in-house IT staffs by having a trusted partner manage their cloud environment. These services include monitoring the health of your digital systems, improving uptime and providing scalable computing capacity. Equally important, managed cloud services ensure your sensitive data is protected behind secure firewalls with intrusion detection, prevention and response measures as well as critical disaster recovery systems, which proactively backup important patient data to assure full recovery if data is compromised.
- SD-WAN – Working with functional teams at different locations is a way of life in healthcare. Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) dramatically simplifies the WAN by delivering virtualized services from the cloud to branch locations and mobile users in any geographical location … or for improving voice quality and application performance from clinic-to-clinic and clinic-to-hospital. Real-time traffic orchestration ensures high-bandwidth availability for video streaming, voice and collaboration tools.
- Security – Reducing risk and exposure to ever-increasing cyber threats require a deep understanding of security intelligence, emerging technologies and security best practices at the business-risk level. Managed security solutions, such as Managed Detection and Response, can provide certified security professionals to be an extension of your healthcare organization’s in-house IT team to proactively monitor, validate and respond to real-time threats around the clock. Especially with electronic health records being prime targets for hackers, it’s paramount to have multiple layers of defense to tighten security and control access.
As data sharing enforcement increases in the future, healthcare will see a renewed focus on providing interoperability among providers, hospitals, clinics and medical centers. Streamlined data sharing and record-keeping practices will enable greater visibility into a patient’s full history of care, ultimately leading to higher quality care and improved outcomes. Sharing medical records, test results and imaging among providers will increasingly be accessible with the click of a button. Additionally, growing demand for price transparency across the entire care spectrum will empower people to compare prices for different treatments and procedures prior to them taking place so they can select the best option for their budget and health condition. Managed IT services will play a key role in how care is delivered and coordinated.