Interoperability: Fulfilling the promise of the digitization of health records

Technology is continuously impacting the healthcare industry, allowing providers, like myself, to securely communicate directly with our patients outside the office setting.

For patients, mobile devices provide access to their health data, monitor vitals and collectively share this information with their providers. However, despite the convenience of having access, the data collected from these devices are often fragmented. Imagine referring a patient to a specialist without giving the specialist access to the patient’s health history. Ultimately, this is not enabling the specialist to make the most informed decision regarding the patient’s treatment plan. With nearly 87 percent of office-based physicians using an electronic health record (EHR) system, it is essential for these systems to share and exchange data and meet standards for interoperability: a system’s ability to work with other systems without special effort on the part of the customer.

As the industry continues to improve on nationwide interoperability, it is also important to look beyond allowing practices to send and receive data. For example, if a patient has an allergy listed on his external health record received from the hospital and I am in the midst of prescribing a medication that can potentially conflict, systems should be able to detect and flag this interaction or allergy. As interoperability continues to develop, it will be crucial to make health data more consumable, more user-friendly and more intelligent; thus, allowing us to deliver better care for our patients, and resulting in improved outcomes.

Today, there are two initiatives that are supporting nationwide interoperability: CommonWell Health Alliance and The Sequoia Project’s Carequality. As part of their commitment to provide data sharing, these organizations have partnered to increase nationwide health IT connectivity, enable seamless exchange of health information and improve data access, and partnered with EHR vendors, record locator service (RLS) providers and other health organizations and existing networks from the private sector and government. As a result of these initiatives, individual data sharing agreements become obsolete, and helping organizations avoid individualized connections that could take months or years to build and implement. In addition, enabling easy data sharing between providers using different systems has become a reality with the competitive vendors working collaboratively for one common goal: improve the delivery of healthcare for patients.

At Eagle Physicians and Associates, we’ve implemented an EHR system that is a part of the Carequality Interoperability Framework, which has allowed us to improve overall efficiency in data sharing across the health system, regardless of which EHR system other hospitals are utilizing. The seamless exchange of data has not only provided access to critical patient information, but it also helped support our patient-centered, preventative care approach. Interoperability is key to bridging the gaps in patient data exchange in order to improve the quality of care we provide.

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