Since the inception of electronic health record mandates, most practices have become familiar with developing systems to generate, store and share information in-house with some degree of outside data coordination. Systems that employ integrated collections partners or that can order prescriptions, tests and home care equipment electronically have generally pleased front-line medical providers. However, EHR mandates, as anyone in the industry could guess, have as their end goal, total data interoperability.
The members of the congressional Commission on Systemic Interoperability, or CSI, fashioned a succinct definition of interoperability: "[t]he ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, to exchange data accurately, effectively, and consistently, and to use the information that has been exchanged."
The difference between what was and what will be is that patient data must become available and usable outside the walls of each individual organization. It must be accessible across myriad devices for easy, secure capture and mobility so that patient records can follow them anywhere they go.
While enterprises and practices love having access to inbound patient records, many still begrudge the expense of generating records only to see them walk out the door to a competitor. This parochiality hampers the development of true medical interoperability. However, medical businesses should re-think the issue. Recalling to mind that payers, not the medical provider, actually fund the creation of records, they should relax their grip on patient data and cooperate with the goals of interoperability. Doing so will prove far more beneficial to healthcare organizations than they might presently believe.
Climbing aboard the interoperability train will ultimately bring about these results, at the very least:
Leaders within the healthcare environment could see the writing on the proverbial wall at least a decade ago. With the developed world reorganizing itself with digital technology, and noting that storage capabilities would expand exponentially with cloud services, they determined that the medical industry should rid itself of dogged protection of its proprietary systems and take the lead in creating interoperability. If they did not, they rightfully reasoned, then the government would. By taking the reins, they have assisted medical and private IT vendors with guidelines so that medical enterprises and vendors could develop proprietary systems that will still interlock nicely with each other resulting in usable data for every participant.
Medical organizations can step up to the interoperability plate by:
Integrating interoperative systems is no longer optional if medical businesses wish to continue receiving compensation. CEOs, CFOs and CIOs must determine how to create interoperable data systems, not whether they should. Without interoperability, a healthcare businesses will eventually become a boutique provider.
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