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Interoperability: A Looming Concern for Healthcare Organizations

Two doctors reviewing a patient record online
May 17, 2016

An Industry-wide Integration of Disparate Systems

Consider the breakup of the major telco providers throughout the late 90s; competitive local exchange companies (CLECs) emerged by the hundreds and played major roles in how customers exchanged data.  Customers were able to realize competitive pricing, not previously possible. This long directory of disparate providers contracted to premium providers who evolved to meet the demands of voice and data convergence, and how to deliver faster, more reliable service to meet the growing need for big data.

Today, a similar shift is taking place in healthcare IT. Precipitated by an exponentially increasing amount of data being transmitted and an ongoing demand for a 360-degree view of every patient, healthcare organizations are dealing with using multiple EHR systems to administrate patient data and internal initiatives, and the need to integrate a multitude of incompatible applications is on the rise. At the same time, a marked increase in healthcare M&A activity is occurring, creating the need for merged hospitals to efficiently integrate systems, patients and records. HIPAA compliance remains at the forefront.

The Peak 10 2nd National IT Trends in Healthcare Study revealed a number of EHR/EMR and interoperability-related industry trends that are driving the move toward a more comprehensive approach to systems integration. The top healthcare IT initiatives included interoperability, upgrades, integration and location-aware connected devices. Further, EMR/EHR system implementations and integrations are also top priorities, but involve a massive project scope, particularly for organizations integrating more than one system.

Hospitals and physicians offices who do not begin the process of enabling interoperability between disparate systems and applications will quickly face a tangled set of consequences, including:

  • Technical challenges stemming from incompatible applications
  • Lack of effective communication between hospitals and insurance companies
  • Decrease in efficiency
  • Negative impact on overall patient satisfaction

Healthcare organizations are now increasingly evaluated based upon patient satisfaction, and cannot afford to sacrifice efficiency or successful execution of patient initiatives due to lack of interoperability.

Successfully Tackling a Complex Transition

The task of achieving successful interoperability is large and daunting, but it can be executed effectively with the right plan and expertise.

In order to support interoperability, organizations must fully understand the application(s) or system(s) in question, including security concerns specific to healthcare, as well as HIPAA compliance. Beyond having a full understanding of what systems need to work together, there is the critical question of how the platform is being delivered. There are a wide range of applications involved in delivering any electronic medical systems, and understanding how they interface is essential. Taking on interoperability is not an initiative that can be improvised.

Having the necessary internal technical staff with expertise specific to healthcare and HIPAA requirements is key. If your healthcare organization does not have the proper staff in-house, evaluating working with a partner who can deliver a HIPAA compliant hosting solution may be a viable option. Beware of vendors who market themselves as healthcare experts; verify that your chosen provider can verify their level of involvement and expertise in detail. Using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as the chosen platform for supporting integration efforts can save your IT staff a great deal of time and challenges, and it will eliminate the stress of neglecting vulnerabilities or overlooking a compliance requirement.

Additional Healthcare IT-specific Resources

Beyond identifying several industry trends identifying interoperability as a top initiative, The 2nd Peak 10 National IT Trends in Healthcare Study yielded many applicable insights that are likely affecting your own healthcare organization, covering nearly every area of information technology. Upon evaluating study results, the Peak 10 Research and Analytics team resolved to yield a broad variety of content which demonstrates study findings and coinciding suggestions for improving the efficacy of your healthcare IT organization.

We invite you to visit the Peak 10 Industry Spotlight: Healthcare IT website. On the site, you will find have access to helpful content based on this research study and ways to operationalize meaningful inferences as a result of our findings.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest