Interoperability between healthcare IT vendors does not inhibit competition. In fact, it encourages it by creating a true best-of-breed market. Twelve percent of the United States' GDP was spent on healthcare in 1990. Spending increased by nearly half by 2013, hitting 17 percent of the GDP. This obviously unsustainable cost directly contributed to governmental attempts to mandate quality and transparency in healthcare, which resulted in a chaotic fiscal landscape. The only feasible way to succeed under this shifting model was to attack inefficiency aggressively and permanently, injecting technological solutions into an industry that, from an operational perspective, is on the wrong side of the adoption curve.
Revenue cycle alone was an obvious area aching for improvement. Hospitals capturing charges on paper (believe it or not, some are, still) is alarming enough; and stories of finding forgotten lab coats with pockets heavy from tens of thousands of unbilled encounters long past the moment for realistic follow-up are common. Switching to electronic charge capture is an obvious move. At the same time, EMRs are necessary to increase data longevity, reduce clutter, and improve accuracy. The list goes on. The same can be said for billing, ADT feeds and nearly anything that needs written down and communicated.
As adoption slowly moved forward, this resulted in a strange mix of large, established veterans grabbing ground and ambitious startups clawing in between the cracks. Because of the breadth and depth of areas that desperately need technological solutions, these startups inevitably shine a spotlight on a need that was previously going unaddressed. However, the large, albeit finite, number of hospitals and practices creates the illusion of tight competition when, in reality, there's so much room for further development and application, the field is far wider than it seems.
This is where interoperability comes into play in a serious way. As technology progresses and data delivery methods concretize, software platforms interacting with each other becomes more about choice and less about capability. CIOs face growing headaches as they deal with vendors that won't play nicely together despite increased internal pressure to find the best solution. Systems with built-in interoperability obviously ease that pressure, but that is only the start of the advantages. Greater interoperability drastically expands the market, easing the artificial pressure of the perceived vanishing space, allowing innovators, startup or veteran, to grow into different areas and compete openly to provide the best product, creating a spectrum of options for hospitals and practices.
Transitioning back to revenue cycle, this allows an array of competing point-of-care software to interact efficiently with billers, EMR, ADT feeds, coding, documentation and pharmacy, (anything that's written down and communicated elsewhere), so when those charges are reliably captured the relevant census data is either entered and populated everywhere else, or imported from elsewhere, drastically reducing inefficiency. The more interoperability like this develops, the more needs of deeper complexity can be remedied by competing vendors, resulting in a more rapidly but stably evolving marketplace that properly and thoroughly addresses inefficiency as a result of revenue loss in healthcare.
Courtney Schickel's career in healthcare IT began ten years ago as the number five employee at Ingenious Med. Still with the company today as VP of marketing, she wore virtually every hat as IM grew from startup to established enterprise.