Healthcare’s interoperability push has witnessed tremendous progress in recent years. Yet some providers choose to remain in stand-by mode, waiting for the industry to reach a final destination before fully embracing the idea. In truth, interoperability is an ongoing process—one that, if embraced now, can provide a strong framework for better, more collaborative patient care and a healthier bottom line.

The recent HIMSS 2016 Interoperability Showcase demonstrated how far the industry has come along its interoperability journey, showing how stakeholders are leveraging existing information sharing capabilities to improve collaboration and help providers and patients make better decisions.

During that event, NextGen Healthcare shared a use case that involved an asthma patient who received treatment in a local emergency department, had a follow-up visit with a primary care physician, and was referred to an allergy specialist. This use case showed how each provider was able to seamlessly share critical patient information, including prescribed medications, problem lists, and diagnoses. Enabling that smooth information exchange were several interoperability elements, including the use of standard messaging protocols, an EHR data repository, and comprehensive registry functionality.

This scenario demonstrates how a vendor community that comes together to advance and optimize information sharing can provide more-effective patient care and illustrates how interoperability is already a reality. Any secure data exchange effort typically involves the use of multiple vendor solutions, tools, and interfaces. Interoperability simplifies the effort and expands the many paths and mechanisms currently available for achieving better care coordination, collaboration, and communication.

What’s more, major initiatives on the national stage are increasing momentum, giving providers a path to greater participation in health information exchanges (HIEs). For instance, the compelling growth of initiatives such as Direct Project and Carequality suggests that forward-thinking providers are already taking advantage of emerging interoperability frameworks. The Direct Project now encompasses more than 1.2 million providers and organizations actively exchanging clinical documents, and Carequality’s common interoperability framework has engaged more than 40 organizations.

There’s little debate that better information sharing results in improved outcomes and lower costs. Providers can – and should – embrace the industry’s continuing progress in secure cross-continuum communication, and be proactive about taking hold of the opportunity to provide more quality and timely care, driving a healthier population and reducing healthcare costs.

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