13 Feb Interoperability: Playing Well with Others
When we think about information — and specifically, about patient information — one of the first things to come to mind is the problem of taking it with you. Of course, the days of the bulky paper chart that has to be scanned in (or worse, photocopied) and provided to the patient and their family is long gone, but the issue hasn’t disappeared; it’s simply changed with the technology we use to record and disperse information. We’re still left with the same questions: how can we make the process seamless for the patient and family? How can we ensure its security? And most of all, what can we do to ensure the best possible experience for everyone involved? With the advent of the digital age, interoperability is key.
What is Interoperability?
In the simplest of terms, interoperability is the ability of computer systems to exchange and make use of information. But it’s more than a matter of nuts and bolts; interoperability means not only sharing information between diverse systems, but being able to use that information in the most effective way. We have to ask ourselves, how will the information be used for patient care? How should it be presented in order to be most effective? Will the system allow complete access to the information? What’s the most useful way to use this information?
Your EHR has to constantly balance a variety of disparate needs — cost vs. care, care vs. convenience; regulatory compliance vs. the day-to-day needs of the pediatric community; innovation vs. agility. Interoperability is the foundation.
Why is it Important?
Interoperability is an industry-wide initiative, currently being driven by the ONC – Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. It hinges in great part on regulatory measures, and of course we all want to stay in compliance with regulations — and the requirements are changing quickly.
The 21st Century Cures Act is adding new layers of regulation, with a focus on getting patients access to their own data. Every EHR company must provide seamless access to the data, without the need for the patient to install any software. Interoperability is the means for allowing two different systems to exchange this data so that the patient and their family can retrieve it. But more than that, interoperability allows for constant innovation, which in turn allows the flexibility to meet the ever-evolving needs of pediatricians and the pediatric community.
How Other EHRs Are Staying Agile
It’s tough to be innovative and remain agile at the same time, and to support both innovation and agility may mean investing in a dedicated team focused on interoperability. Working with vendors to rollout new functionality with the help of third parties has also been a strategy. One of the most useful tools has been the use of APIs to facilitate data exchange between disparate systems; APIs aren’t new, but the healthcare industry has been playing catch-up with other industries in this regard.
Balancing regulatory compliance, innovation, and agility is no small task. Weighing the needs of pediatricians against regulatory needs is a balancing act, but interoperability ensures that both sets of needs can be met.
Blog authored by Bharath Perugu, Product Director of Interoperability – OP & Amy Kjolstad, Manager of Integrations & Interfaces – OP