Know these misconceptions. Avoid the mistakes they can cause.
Healthcare reform can’t happen without secure sharing of patient health information (PHI). How’s your interoperability knowledge?
Maybe you’re thinking: “Why should I know about interoperability? Isn’t that IT’s job? I’ve got patients to worry about.” Understandable. But not sufficient for the long term success of your practice.
I’m not asking you to become an interoperability expert. But you should know enough to stay current with what the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) says is its top priority for the next ten years.
What it is…
Interoperability is all the health information technology (HIT) software we use, working together easily. The “working together” part means sharing data – regardless of origin or system – and the “easily” part means doing this with fewer clicks and little or no frustration.
Interoperable HIT systems allow providers to share data among different practitioners, insurers, billing/scheduling systems, and health information exchanges (HIEs). The Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has excellent information on interoperability.
And what it’s not…
› Interoperability Myth #1 – “One size fits all.”
No. Your solution must meet standards but be flexible. Work with your HIT partner to identify your interoperability goals. For example:
- Are you trying to meet the Meaningful Use stage 2 criteria?
- Do you need more data sources to improve your population health management?
- Do you simply need to exchange specific data with your local hospital?
- Or, are you building an accountable care platform?
Interoperability means different things depending on what you are trying to do.
› Interoperability Myth #2 – “There is one standard to live by.”
(You wish.) Data standards are supposed to streamline and improve data workflows. In the shorter term, they’ve done the opposite in healthcare IT. Consensus around key health IT data standards and related workflows is elusive.
The most important takeaway about HIT standards is to make sure your clinical, administrative, and financial software system(s) are flexible. Use an open software solution to “build-in” system flexibility and ensure your HIT platform and systems can react quickly to transcend complicated, ever-changing standards.
› Interoperability Myth #3 – “I can only ‘talk’ to providers on the same EHR as me.”
What a waste that would be! And it’s totally not true. You need to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate in real time with all the providers in your community and beyond.
Your EHR vendor should be able to demonstrate EHR vendor-neutral communication to you with any one of the examples below – the most commonly seen/used instances of provider-to-provider electronic communication.
- Electronic referrals/transition of care
- Clinical record
Ask your vendor how they address providers in your community that do not use an EHR but with whom you still need to collaborate with for patient care.
- Interoperability Myth #4 – “If I give up control of my data, I’ll lose patients.”
It’s the opposite. When you share PHI across a care team, you can gain better control over clinical outcomes and shared risk, making your patients happier. Plus, you could actually gain patients. If you can be found more easily by other providers in your community, it’s easier for those providers to send referrals your way.
Investigate establishing or joining an HIE. Because when your patient’s PHI is electronically available to other providers you not only empower your patient to receive the value of care continuity but also you’re visible to the community as a referring provider.
- Interoperability Myth #5 – “Hospitals run the interoperability show.”
Not so fast. Actually… some of the most useful patient data comes from ambulatory.
Yes, hospitals are important to the progress of healthcare interoperability. Mostly because of the patient volume they see and the enormous pools of data generated in these settings. But some of the most actionable patient data is collected in ambulatory settings, places like practices, clinics, and public health agencies.
That’s where the majority of patient encounter dialog happens and is captured in the EHR; data discovered and recorded in the EHR in these settings can have profound effects on a patient’s future outcomes, including hospital visits.
- Interoperability Myth #6 – “Interoperability doesn’t really ‘do’ anything. It’s a fad.”
I understand your skepticism, but it’s just not true. And the ONC has made it a top priority.
Cycles and fads come and go; interoperability in healthcare is here to stay. If not, collaborative, coordinated care won’t work. And improved population health is just a pipedream.
Talk to your vendors about their interoperability plans and approach. While some vendors are developing adaptable and dynamic interoperable systems, many others are not – even though they offer ONC Certified HIT solutions [Certified Electronic Health Record Technology – CEHRT]. Get a proven interoperability HIT partner with a data sharing vision that makes sense to you and fits the healthcare reform environment.
Thousands of healthcare professionals and organizations across the nation and around the world use Mirth® solutions to achieve interoperability across siloed systems, streamline care processes, and securely exchange health information. More than 87 million patients already benefit from Mirth® interoperability solutions.