Overcoming three data barriers that are preventing the exchange of healthcare information

Must be addressed through People, Process and Technology

There is no question that healthcare organizations are collecting volumes of data that can be used to support critical clinical, financial and operational decisions. Unfortunately, breaking through the barriers that prevent timely access and analysis of the data requires more than a simple technology solution.

The challenge can only be met by understanding how people, processes and technology work together to maximize the value of data and by ensuring the right resources are in place to access, analyze and use data to improve business operations as well as clinical outcomes.

While the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs for achieving Meaningful Use of electronic health record (EHR) technology, and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), push for the free flow of data between providers, the adherence to this, as well as the lack of success in public health information exchange (HIE) organizations, for example, highlight three key data barriers that exist in healthcare. These barriers, which need to be addressed, are as follows:

1. Data Blocking

MACRA and other regulatory directives call for the sharing of patient information, but the majority of electronic health record (EHR) vendors make it difficult to share outside the organization. Too often we find that the EHRs charge exorbitant fees when providers want to participate with a private or public HIE.

We need to continue to encourage and work with EHR vendors to make this functionality core to their solution and included as part of their ongoing fees. The sharing of data benefits the patient, providers and the EHR vendors who then have more data from which to help improve medical outcomes.

2. Lack of Interoperability

There are far too many healthcare applications on the market that either rely on outdated standards or and that have adopted data-sharing standards that are not compatible with existing applications. Adding to the interoperability challenge in healthcare are the many different ways to describe clinical conditions and the variety of structured and unstructured data in healthcare. For example, there are 36 ways to say "heart attack" – which complicates information exchange.

In both cases, it is difficult for multiple systems to "talk" to one another. We need to make it easier for applications to communicate, recognizing that there will never be the "perfect" standard. We must become better at interoperability from both a technical and business standpoint in order to improve healthcare.

3. Real-time Access to Data

Clinicians and business operations staff need access to complete, accurate data in a timely manner. Disconnects between data recorded by one physician and another provider in a different setting increase the risk for missed diagnoses, delayed treatment or ineffective therapy. Too often today, claims data is only available months after encounters take place.

In order to make proper decisions in a timely manner, for the purposes of accountable care organization (ACO) operations for instance, data needs to be available in near-real-time. This will allow for expedited decision-making and actionable insights which will, in turn, improve operational and clinical outcomes.

Eliminating these barriers is possible with a strategy that addresses:


Create a space between all applications that aggregates and harmonizes data from disparate applications to enable easy transfer between users – regardless of application. Relying on a cloud-based platform that provides access to information for business analytics, operational tasks such as claims submissions, clinical collaboration and research enables organizations to cost-effectively use existing technology while optimizing the value of data collected in each application.


Implement a solution that supports different needs for different users. While a registry of patients who received knee replacements enables a manufacturer and provider to follow up with patients for product recalls is important, the same registry may be valuable to clinicians conducting outcome studies to develop clinical best practices. Developing a process to collect all data and format it so that filters can be used to pull data into appropriate registries, or subsections of registries, for focused analytics is essential to activities throughout the healthcare organization.


Understand the competing interests of people collecting, managing and using data to develop an approach that provides access to information without placing an extra burden on the information technology staff or on users who are hesitant to switch to new applications that require substantial training to master. Selecting a cloud platform-based, and managed IT solution not only frees in-house IT staff to focus on critical day-to-day operations, but also "translates" information between the applications, which allows users to continue accessing data through existing applications.

Opening the EHR and other business applications to share data for ACO reporting, business operations analysis, revenue cycle management, best practice development and clinical collaboration benefits everyone throughout the organization, and benefits patients and healthcare consumers with better, more coordinated and cost-effective care.

One final benefit to creating a platform that makes data available in a location and format that is accessible throughout the organization are compliance requirements designed to protect patient information. It is not enough to protect data through perimeter-based security alone – data must be categorized, securely stored and tracked throughout all business practices to ensure it is auditable. The ability to identify levels of access and create the audit trail – naming all practitioners who accessed the information – is essential to protecting patients' sensitive information.

The value of data in healthcare is recognized by everyone, but staffing and financial burdens along with competitive interests of EHR and other application vendors, creates unnecessary challenges. Finding that "middle ground" where a platform can collect and make data available to different applications supports continued use of existing applications while sharing information and leads to improved collaboration, security, analytics and reporting capabilities.

Gary Palgon
VP Healthcare and Life Sciences Solutions
Liaison Technologies

Gary Palgon is vice president of healthcare and life sciences solutions at Liaison Technologies. In this role, Gary leverages more than two decades of product management, sales, and marketing experience to develop and expand Liaison's data-inspired solutions for the healthcare and life sciences verticals. Gary's unique blend of expertise bridges the gap between the technical and business aspects of healthcare, data security, and electronic commerce. As a respected thought leader in the healthcare IT industry, Gary has had numerous articles published, is a frequent speaker at conferences, and often serves as a knowledgeable resource for analysts and journalists. Gary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer and Information Sciences from the University of Florida.

About Liaison Technologies

Liaison Technologies provides integration and data management solutions to help customers in all industries, including healthcare and life sciences, unlock the power of a data-centric approach to their business. Liaison's cloud-based approach breaks down the barriers between data silos to tap into the valuable information needed to make better decisions, faster. Tailored to solve complex data problems today while building a robust foundation for tomorrow's unforeseen challenges, Liaison fosters a seamless flow of information securely and at scale. Founded in 2000, Liaison serves more than 7,000 customers in 46 countries, with offices in the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Singapore. For more information, visit www.liaison.com and connect with Liaison on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

About Liaison ALLOY Health Platform

Liaison's ALLOY Health Platform — the world's first data Platform as a Service (dPaaS) technology — enables secure, compliant interoperability across multiple data formats and standards. With ALLOY Health, a cloud-based platform, healthcare and life sciences organizations can more easily integrate, manage, harmonize and share both structured and unstructured data from multiple sources, including social media and wearable fitness trackers, in a secure, actionable and compliant manner. Find out more about Liaison's ALLOY Health Platform and its dPaaS approach to complex integration and data management for the healthcare and life sciences sectors at www.liaisonhealthcare.com.

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