HIMSS News

The promise of interoperability

In a perfect world, patient John Doe’s MRI results, blood pressure, medications, allergies, age, and other details of his medical history would be stored neatly in one EHR.  It would be organized, searchable, and protected in a secure network. There would be no mistakes in his medical record, as there would be no paper transmissions, faxes, up-or-downloads, or data redundancy.  The information would be easy to access, store, and analyze.

Each of Mr. Doe’s healthcare specialists treating his chronic condition could access and read the disparate healthcare test results with little fanfare. All test results, medications, and treatment plans would be in a simple language, and with it, the integrity of his care improved and related costs reduced - the promise of interoperability.

 According to 2014 West Health Institute report, “The Value of Medical Device Interoperability,” interoperability could improve patient care with more than $30 billion in annual healthcare savings.   This would include $2 billion in reduction of adverse events due to safety interlocks, $3 billion in reduction in redundant testing, $12 billion in increased clinical productivity – decreased time spent manually entering information, and $18 billion in shortening the length of stay, all translating to increased capacity for treatment.

 Yet, ambitious as it may be, Mr. Doe’s story is not reality in today’s healthcare mainstream. Rather, few of our medical devices or information systems speak the same language.

 According to a recent report by HIMSS Analytics, while over 90 percent of the hospitals surveyed by HIMSS use six or more types of devices that could be integrated with EHRs (such as defibrillators, electrocardiographs, vital signs monitors, ventilators and infusion pumps), only a third of hospitals actually integrate clinical data from medical devices with EHRs today. Researchers attribute these data aggregation challenges to the high cost of data exchange, complex integration, and lack of uniformity.

 Yet, with the initiative for new uniform standards for data collection and reporting, including those that comply with MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015), providers can validate treatment regimens and report associated outcomes to improve overall patient outcomes that will optimize reimbursement to cut costs. Experts agree that clinician efficiency is obtained first by accelerating the time to value healthcare applications – an accomplishment realized by building in interoperability with EHR systems. At a minimum, all systems should have the ability to:

  •  Transform medical data, including patient demographics, diagnoses detail and test results, into an industry standard format used and reused across systems,
  •  Maintain data compatibility with SNOMED, HEDIS and STAR metric standards,
  • Connect various network-enabled medical devices and images to any major EHR,
  • Reduce or eliminate manual data entry to improve patient health record accuracy and data collection,
  • Secure connectivity to medical devices with patient data,
  • Offer remote monitoring of EHR connections and usage statistics,
  • Automate clinical procedure workflows by populating patient data with procedure checklists to/from the EHR,
  • Highlight data discrepancies/ flag missing data,
  • Assign pre-and-post procedure activities to clinicians via predefined worklists/workflows, and
  • Make meaningful use a reality by populating an intuitive patient interface

With the new MACRA operational standards in play, the healthcare industry has never been so poised for interoperability, that is if it’s done right.  We can think of no better investment in cleaning up healthcare data to improve efficiency and reduce costs and invite you to join us.

About the author: One of the nation’s top healthcare data executives and seasoned change agent, Mr. Kateian is the general manager of Jitterbit Health