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EHR Interoperability – Everything You Need to Know About Genuine Efficiency in Healthcare Software

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According to Deloitte, interoperability will be a linchpin for healthcare, revolutionizing how patient data is accessed and used for optimum care. Electronic Health Record (EHR) interoperability solutions enable seamless exchange of patient EHR data across different healthcare systems. Besides, they break down the conventional data silos that have long plagued the healthcare landscape. 

Interoperability will be a linchpin for healthcare

Defined as the capability of various systems, applications, and devices to cohesively exchange and utilize information across organizational, regional, and even state boundaries, EHR interoperability is set to redefine data access. This technology aims to optimize not just patient care but also the performance of healthcare facilities themselves. 

This article is your comprehensive guide to understanding the full scope of EHR interoperability. We did our best to gather all you need about the phenomenon and its bright future. 

“Our expertise in healthcare technology allows us to push the boundaries of what’s possible with interoperability. At SPsoft, we gather top talent, not just to create any software. We set a bar high and do all it takes to provide solutions translating into more efficient and patient-centered healthcare.” 

Mike Lazor
CEO, SPsoft

“Focusing on EHR Interoperability is not just a matter of technological curiosity. For SPsoft, it’s a commitment to improving healthcare outcomes. While there is still much work to be done, our experts do their job to pave the way for a future where data-driven decisions are the norm, not the exception.” 

Romaniya Mykyta
Head of Product Management, SPsoft

A Glimpse Into EHR Interoperability Market Status 

As interoperability of EHR advances, it is critical to examine its market dynamics, the pace of adoption, and the challenges healthcare institutions face.

The Current State of Adoption

In recent years, the adoption of EHR systems has been significant. The Becker’s Hospital Review reports that 96% of non-federal acute care hospitals and about four out of every five office-based physicians in the US used a certified EHR system. In addition, according to EHR Intelligence, an encouraging 88% of hospitals have joined the electronic data exchange ecosystem.

Financial Outlook

Regarding economic growth, the interoperability solutions market in healthcare was valued at approximately $5.3 billion in the 2020 Allied Market Research. It is projected to escalate to a staggering $21.5 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 14.9%. That indicates an increasing focus on enhancing the integration, exchange, and utilization of electronic health data to benefit individual patients and broader populations.

The Overwhelm of Data

When it comes to role of data in EHR interoperability, there are these aspects to keep in mind:

  • Data Overload Concerns. As of the end of 2021, the issue of data overload has become increasingly prevalent in the healthcare sector.
  • U.S. Physician Statistics. Specifically, 71% of physicians in the United States have reported feeling overwhelmed by patient data.
  • Hospital Challenges. About 50% of U.S. hospitals indicate that managing the influx of patient data is a significant challenge.
  • Impact on Interoperability. This data overload is not just an administrative issue; it also hampers efforts to improve interoperability between different healthcare systems.
  • Patient Care Experience. The difficulty in managing this data effectively impacts the quality of patient care, making it a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

While the progress in EHR and interoperability is laudable, challenges remain concerning data management. But the proper financial investment and tech advancements point toward a future where interoperable healthcare data becomes integral to a more efficient, patient-centered system.

Get in touch to explore the hands-on expertise our team has with interoperability. Witness the insights that can help understand the phenomenon from different perspectives.

Breaking Down the Scope of EHR Interoperability Solutions

According to Deloitte, the future of health data will be deeply interconnected. The healthcare interoperability landscape is moving toward an ecosystem where data is not just stored but actively works to improve patient outcomes. This is where interoperability and EHR solutions come into play. But what exactly do these solutions offer, and how do they facilitate better healthcare? Let’s check.

Scope of EHR interoperability solutions
Figure 1. Scope of EHR interoperability solutions

Integration: The Backbone of Actionable Data

EHR interoperability’s core is the seamless integration of internal data, processes, and personnel. It is not just about having a patient data repository but making this information actionable. For instance, imagine a scenario where the patient’s blood test results are immediately integrated into their EHR. That allows healthcare providers to instantly evaluate them, leading to quicker diagnosis and treatment plans.

Exchange: Beyond the Four Walls

The interoperability of EHR solutions goes beyond the confines of a single healthcare facility by enabling timely external data exchange. That is crucial for early disease detection and cost transparency. For example, if a patient undergoes an MRI at a specialized center, this data could be instantaneously shared with their primary care physician.

Access: Gateway to Quality Care

Streamlined and secure data access is another pillar of EHR and interoperability. It improves service quality and enhances patient outcomes and overall consumer experience. Imagine a patient with a chronic condition like diabetes. With interoperable EHR systems, the diabetologist, the general physician, and the nutritionist can have real-time access to the patient’s medical history, treatment plans, and current medications.

Insights: Data-Driven Decision-Making

Insights derived from various health data, including clinical records, insurance claims, device monitoring data, and social determinants of health. These can also be the following data points: financial status, housing, and economic factors. In a nutshell, it is everything that can significantly enhance healthcare outcomes. 

Consider an elderly patient with multiple co-morbidities. By analyzing their medical records and economic factors like their ability to afford medications, healthcare providers can tailor treatment plans that are both medically sound and financially viable for the patient.

Thus, EHR interoperability can be coined as the key factor in a healthcare paradigm shift. By offering integrated, accessible, and insightful data solutions, it paves the way for the industry’s bright future.

Are you prepared for a deeper dive into the latest EHR application insights? Explore how these pose key strategic questions for health providers

Understanding the Layers of EHR Interoperability: A Hierarchical Framework

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) delineates four crucial tiers for advancing health information technology interoperability. Each level serves as a building block, augmenting capabilities as we ascend the ladder of comprehensiveness.

Layers of EHR interoperability
Figure 2. Layers of EHR interoperability

I. Foundational Interoperability

At its most elementary, foundational interoperability grants the technical means for one EHR system to transmit data to another. It serves as the gateway for basic data transfer, albeit without any level of interpretation on the part of the receiving system. For instance, when patients conclude their hospital stay, a summary of their health records may be provided in an unmodifiable format like PDF.

II. Structural Interoperability

Advancing to the next stage, structural interoperability extends beyond mere data transmission. The sender and receiver can comprehend and interpret the data at specific data points or fields. The data should align with recognized standards, making it possible to share detailed information like electronic prescriptions effectively. 

III. Semantic Interoperability

Moving up the hierarchy, semantic interoperability offers a more intricate level of data understanding and utilization. It ensures that the transmitted information is delivered appropriately, organized and understood across varying EHR platforms. Such a capability allows a seamless interchange of patient health records among diverse healthcare providers. That is because the systems can automatically recognize and decode elements like terminology and coding vocabularies.

IV. Organizational Interoperability

Reaching the summit of this hierarchical model, organizational interoperability is a multidimensional concept that encompasses much more than technology. It integrates policy, governance, legal frameworks, and social norms to enable fluid, secure, and timely data sharing and utilization. Within this domain, explicit consent and integrated workflows are essential components that pave the way for data exchange among healthcare entities.

By understanding these four levels, you can better appreciate the intricate structure of EHR interoperability. Each tier adds another layer of capability and complexity, contributing to a holistic ecosystem to optimize healthcare delivery and operational efficiency.

Find out the connection between technological innovation and EHR software systems. See how the latest tech solutions can boost EHR interoperability.

Top 10 Benefits of EHR Interoperability 

EHR interoperability stands out as a catalyst for healthcare transformation. The seamless health data exchange across different platforms is more than a technological feat. It affects patient care, operational efficiency, and financial sustainability. So, let’s explore the top 10 benefits of EHR and interoperability that make them indispensable components of modern healthcare systems.

Top 10 EHR interoperability benefits
Figure 3. Top 10 EHR interoperability benefits

1. Enhanced Care for Patients

Interoperability and EHR foster a more patient-centric approach to healthcare. With providers able to access a comprehensive range of medical histories, the likelihood of medical errors and misdiagnoses is considerably minimized. This data-sharing capability improves diagnostic accuracy and patient satisfaction, as individuals no longer have to endure repetitive tests or recount their medical histories with each new healthcare encounter.

2. Financial Savings

Financial efficiency is another undeniable advantage of EHR interoperability. The system avoids duplicate testing and streamlines administrative procedures, significantly reducing costs. In a healthcare landscape where every dollar counts, reallocating funds from redundant tasks to direct patient care can enhance healthcare delivery and organizational revenue.

3. Improved Communication and Coordination

Interoperable EHR systems facilitate quicker, more accurate communication between healthcare providers. By breaking down information silos and reducing the time spent on inter-organizational communication, healthcare providers can reallocate that time toward immediate patient care. As a result, this elevates the overall patient experience.

4. Streamlined Administrative Workflows

Automating redundant processes like appointment scheduling, quality reporting, and obtaining authorizations makes administrative workflows more streamlined. That not only lifts the burden off administrative staff but also accelerates the generation of critical healthcare insights, ultimately contributing to superior healthcare outcomes.

5. Compliance with Regulatory Standards

Interoperable systems ease compliance requirements by automating and optimizing data collection and reporting. This efficient compliance management helps avoid financial penalties and ensures smooth operations, fostering a conducive environment for healthcare providers and patients.

6. Informed Decision-making

Interoperable EHRs offer the ability to compile and analyze multifaceted data, providing healthcare professionals with a comprehensive understanding of patients. That is particularly crucial for reducing diagnostic errors, one of the leading causes of adverse patient outcomes.

7. Enhanced Care Delivery

Real-time data accessibility allows clinicians to administer more timely care, setting a new standard for healthcare delivery efficiency. That is especially vital in a value-based care environment, where treatment efficacy directly impacts financial rewards for healthcare providers.

8. Virtual Healthcare Solutions

Telehealth services can be easily integrated into interoperable systems. These widen healthcare providers’ reach and offer patients more convenient alternatives, mainly in remote or underserved areas.

9. Automated Alerts

Automated notifications preempt healthcare providers about crucial changes in the patient’s condition. These early warnings can drastically reduce hospital readmissions and enhance the overall quality of care, adding extra patient safety.

10. Comprehensive Clinical Documentation

Interoperable systems expedite the preparation of patient records and facilitate smooth care transitions. Comprehensive, easily accessible documentation ensures better follow-up and long-term patient management, improving the entire care continuum.

The transformation of healthcare is inevitably tied to advancements in technology, and the interoperability of EHR is at the forefront of this revolution. From enhancing patient-centered care to comprehensive clinical documentation, the advantages of EHR and interoperability are numerous.

5 Major EHR Interoperability Challenges

EHRs offer a unified way to store vital patient data. However, the road to seamless EHR interoperability faces challenges beyond technology. This section highlights the five most pressing barriers to EHR interoperability and offers actionable insights for overcoming these obstacles.

5 major EHR interoperability barriers
Figure 4. 5 major EHR interoperability barriers

1. Data Overload

The data overload is often due to inconsistent information and a need for standardized data structure among multiple sources. Data can exist in various formats and types, making it challenging for different systems to communicate effectively. A unified network and interface automatically pulling the necessary data from different silos can streamline this process, making the EHRs more manageable and valuable.

2. Slow Progress in Interoperability

As per the notable scientific journal Jama Health Forum, between 2014 and 2018, growth in interoperability and EHR domains was notably slow. Many healthcare providers still operate with outdated systems incompatible with newer EHR solutions, often due to budget constraints or lack of expertise. Providers often wrongly assume that only large healthcare networks can afford health IT system integration. This mindset needs to change, as scalable and update-friendly solutions are available and essential for operational efficiency.

3. Lack of Standardization

The lack of communication standards across EHRs exacerbates interoperability issues. Each healthcare provider often operates on unique standards, sometimes conflicting with others. This lack of homogeneity can result in inefficient and erroneous data sharing. FHIR offers a promising avenue for standardized communication but needs more rigid implementation guidelines. Providers should commit to a comprehensive set of FHIR resources to ensure effective information sharing.

4. Patient Privacy Concerns

HIPAA regulations require strict controls over Personal Health Information (PHI). Ensuring these controls are in place across different systems is challenging. A breach in data can not only result in severe penalties but can also tarnish the healthcare organization’s reputation. Role-based access control and two-factor authentication measures can be implemented to mitigate this.

5. Resistance to Data Sharing

Even with standardized APIs, some healthcare organizations refrain from sharing data due to competition or concerns about data security. This reluctance not only hampers interoperability but also affects the quality of healthcare. Regulatory actions like ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule can enforce data sharing and penalize data blockers.

The phenomenon promises a streamlined healthcare system where data flows seamlessly. But, the barriers to EHR interoperability, including data overload, slow progress, and lack of standardization, impede its full realization. By actively acknowledging and finding solutions for these challenges, healthcare organizations can pave the way for a more interconnected and efficient future.

Discover how new forms of EHR software development find their way into the healthcare landscape and explore how the phenomenon can redefine the comprehensiveness of handling health data.

Strategies for Improving EHR Interoperability

The promise of EHR to revolutionize healthcare has long been recognized. However, the real magic happens when these records are interoperable. Here, we examine multiple avenues for enhancing EHR interoperability, examining their benefits and limitations.

Strategies for Improving EHR Interoperability

Adopting Cloud-Based EHRs

Cloud-based EHRs have become popular for their ability to integrate and access data from various sources, including clinical, lab, and pharmacy systems. That leads to higher quality care for patients as all healthcare providers within the ecosystem have a comprehensive view of the patient’s health. 

However, the cloud has its challenges. Specifically, interoperability can still be an issue, particularly in private or isolated cloud systems. Also, maintaining a private cloud environment requires significant investment and a specialized in-house IT team.

Leveraging Open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

APIs offer a relatively straightforward method for achieving the interoperability of EHR. By facilitating communication between disparate systems and applications, APIs enable data and PHIs to be shared easily. That results in more integrated, efficient, and ultimately, better patient care.

While APIs offer great flexibility, they require strict adherence to security protocols and standards to prevent data breaches. Also, poor implementation can lead to errors and inefficiencies that could compromise patient care.

Utilizing Blockchain for Network Provider Identification (NPID)

Blockchain tech offers a new avenue for enhancing interoperability and EHR through its decentralized digital ledger. This ledger can securely and permanently record transactions, making it easier for patients to share their medical records with healthcare providers. Blockchain also has the potential to enhance semantic interoperability, eliminating the need for expensive system integrations.

Blockchain’s decentralized control means patients have greater responsibility for their data, exposing them to risks like advanced fraud schemes. Additionally, healthcare providers would need to acquire new skills in blockchain management and even marketing to encourage consumer adoption.

A Multi-Faceted Approach for the Future

Given the complexities of healthcare systems, more than a one-size-fits-all approach to EHR and interoperability is needed. Healthcare providers may consider a hybrid approach that leverages the cloud for data storage, APIs for real-time data exchange, and blockchain for secure and immutable records. While each has limitations, their combined strengths could offer a more integrated, secure, and efficient system for healthcare providers and patients.

Achieving seamless EHR interoperability is a technical challenge and a healthcare imperative. As technologies evolve, so do the opportunities to make EHR systems more integrated, secure, and user-friendly. And ultimately, it is about delivering higher-quality patient care facilitated by seamless access to critical health information.

How to Effectively Measure EHR Interoperability

Understanding the effectiveness of EHR interoperability is critical to healthcare management. But how can healthcare providers measure the effectiveness of their EHR interoperability initiatives?

Key Factors to Consider

When it comes to measuring EHR interoperability, one cannot omit these key factors:

  • Data Accuracy. Ensuring that the correct data is transferred without errors is paramount. That relates to the ‘Basic Transactions’ parameter developed by the HIMSS Interoperability & HIE Committee. It focuses on the ability of two systems to exchange data flawlessly.
  • Data Speed. That involves both ‘Transaction Time’ and ‘Transaction Volume,’ measuring the latency between data request and reception and the throughput of data exchanges.
  • User Experience. An often-overlooked metric, user experience, deals with how intuitively and efficiently healthcare providers can navigate the EHR system. That could be influenced by the ‘User Specifics’ of the healthcare organization, such as its size, location, or specialty, that hosts interoperable transactions.
  • Compliance with Standards. Standards like HL7 or FHIR are crucial for ensuring data exchange capabilities. That aligns with ‘Standards Applied’ and ‘Profile-Defined Transactions’ in the HIMSS framework, which look at the message types and standards enabling seamless data exchange.

Comprehensive Metrics to Evaluate

Here are additional metrics inspired by the HIMSS Interoperability & HIE Committee, which can deepen your understanding of interoperability effectiveness:

  • Partners and Stakeholders. Consider the levels at which data exchange occurs. Is it mainly between providers, or does it extend to larger systems like health registries?
  • Transaction Types. Does the transaction involve only basic patient information or more complex data like medical images or lab reports? That can be classified under ‘Profile-Defined Transactions.’
  • Scaling Capabilities. Any significant fluctuations in ‘Transaction Volume’ can signal the need to scale the system up or down.
  • Future Plans. Identifying current limitations and future needs will help lay down a road map for achieving higher levels of interoperability, such as semantic interoperability. That allows for data interpretation and not just exchange.
  • Strategic Gaps and Solutions. After evaluating these metrics, healthcare providers should assess gaps in their current capabilities and plan strategies for bridging them.

By incorporating these comprehensive metrics into your evaluation, you will be better positioned to rate your EHR and interoperability scope and efficiency, thereby identifying areas for improvement.

EHR Interoperability Standards and Frameworks

Navigating the realm of EHR interoperability is made more accessible by adhering to several prominent standards and frameworks. These guidelines ensure seamless data exchange, secure information sharing, and ease of access for all stakeholders. 

Navigating the realm of EHR interoperability
  • Health Level Seven International Version 2 (HL7v2) and HL7v3. HL7v2 and HL7v3 are commonly used standards that facilitate the electronic exchange of healthcare information. They provide a robust architecture and standardized message protocol for exchanging clinical and administrative data among healthcare systems.
  • Common Clinical Data Set (CCDS). The CCDS is another standard that simplifies the exchange of basic patient information among healthcare providers, like medications, lab tests, and vital signs.
  • Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). TEFCA aims to provide a universal foundation for interoperability across the healthcare IT landscape. It outlines the secure health data-sharing approach among network participants and defines the necessary infrastructure models.
  • CMS Advancing Interoperability Rule (CMS-0057-P). The CMS-0057-P Rule emphasizes the need for improved data exchange mechanisms. It aims to facilitate more accessible access to comprehensive health records for providers, patients, and payers.
  • Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). FHIR  is a modern standard focusing on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). It enables quick and efficient electronic health information exchange and offers a structure for administrative and clinical data. FHIR-enabled applications empower patients to securely access their Electronic Health Information (EHI) wherever they are.
  • United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). USCDI offers a standardized set of health data classes and elements to facilitate EHI exchange. Compliance with USCDI is a prerequisite for new API certification criteria, making it an essential standard to consider.

Understanding and leveraging these standards and frameworks will contribute to the success of EHR and interoperability initiatives. Each provides unique advantages that, when combined, offer a complex solution for secure and efficient healthcare data exchange.

Navigating the Future of EHR Interoperability 

The path towards robust EHR interoperability is rich with potential. Although advances have been made in functional and structural interoperability, semantic interoperability’s pinnacle lies elsewhere. It lies in optimizing patient care coordination and clinical decision-making.

Currently, interoperability is a cornerstone of patient satisfaction and quality care. Consumers demand greater control over their healthcare decisions, so the focus is shifting toward seamless data exchange among various healthcare providers. Companies like SPsoft are at the forefront of this shift, offering specialized services to build compliant, secure, and easily accessible EHR systems. The latter always meet industry standards and patient expectations.

Contact us immediately to get insights from the experts who know the ins and outs of different healthcare interoperability forms.


What is EHR interoperability?

EHR Interoperability refers to the capacity of various EHR systems to exchange, access, and interpret shared patient data securely. This feature gives healthcare providers a more comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history, regardless of the EHR systems used in different healthcare settings.

How to improve EHR interoperability?

Improving EHR Interoperability is an ongoing process that involves multiple stakeholders, including healthcare organizations, EHR vendors, and policy-makers. Here are some approaches to consider:
1. Adopt cloud-Based EHRs
2. Leverage open APIs
3. Utilize blockchain
4. Implement a multi-Faceted Approach

What are the key interoperability issues with EHR?

Interoperability with EHR systems faces a variety of challenges that impede seamless data exchange. Some of the major issues include:
– Data Overload
– Slow Progress
– Lack of Standardization
– Patient Security Concerns
– Resistance to Data Sharing

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