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How to Achieve Healthcare Data Interoperability in 2023

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The digital health landscape is rapidly changing, with more and more providers turning to digital solutions to improve the quality of their services. As the industry evolves, they must understand the importance of interoperability and how it can help them deliver better care, enhance the use of health data, and optimize their workflow. 

According to HIMSS, healthcare interoperability is the capacity for healthcare systems, devices, and applications to access, exchange, incorporate, and utilize data smoothly. That enables healthcare providers to share patient health information securely and effortlessly.

Health information exchange aided by healthcare interoperability
Figure 1. Health information exchange aided by healthcare interoperability

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of healthcare interoperability and how it can benefit medical organizations. We will also discuss data interoperability challenges and the commonly used solutions and see how you can implement them for maximum benefit.

What Is Interoperability, and How Does It Impact Healthcare?

Interoperability is the ability of two or more systems to exchange and use information. In the context of digital health, data interoperability involves the exchange of medical information between providers, health systems, and patients. Healthcare providers must ensure they can share patient data securely and efficiently. Demand for the security of healthcare interoperability solutions pushes the creation of standards that allow information to be exchanged consistently and a secure infrastructure that can protect the data and keep it accurate and up-to-date. 

Exploring the Core Benefits of Interoperability 

Interoperability in health data management is a powerful enabler of the secure sharing of patient data between healthcare providers, allowing for more efficient patient care. For instance, EHR interoperability improves data accuracy, cutting human errors and boosting patient outcomes. These are just some of the benefits of healthcare interoperability, so let us take a closer look:

Improved Patient Care

Interoperability allows for sharing vital patient information, promoting more informed decisions and improved care. In medical informatics, interoperability enables healthcare providers to access and exchange all-encompassing patient data quickly and accurately. By improving the flow of information, interoperability helps healthcare providers to save time and resources. 

It also helps strengthen care quality through efficient EHR interoperability solutions. Healthcare providers can access patient records easily, ensuring that the most precise and up-to-date information is used when making decisions regarding each patient. At the same time, EHR interoperability solutions can help reduce medical errors and enhance patient safety, as healthcare providers can access the most recent and complete data sets. 

With the improved accuracy and availability of patient information, interoperability can reduce healthcare costs. Providers will not have to spend as much time and money on redundant tests. Connecting different healthcare systems enables clinics to facilitate the coordination of care between healthcare providers, leading to better patient care quality.

Higher Efficiency

With streamlined data exchange, healthcare providers can improve their workflow and increase efficiency. Healthcare interoperability improves the effectiveness of care delivery by allowing physicians to securely access and share data across different systems. This type of data sharing enables access to patient information from multiple sources, such as Electronic Health Record (EHR) platforms, Health Information Exchanges (HIE), and other systems. 

Doctors can access a patient’s full medical history, including medications, allergies, lab results, and more, all in one place. Improved access to data helps healthcare providers make better decisions and reduce errors and data duplication. Additionally, interoperability helps reduce costs and improve the quality of care by streamlining processes and eliminating delays. 

Cost Reduction and Cost Efficiency

Interoperability can reduce data exchange and data storage costs. Since it allows healthcare providers to exchange data securely, the information is not siloed in disparate systems but can be shared between providers, other systems, and patients. That cuts inefficiencies, enhances data accuracy, and reduces the costs associated with manual data entry and record-keeping. For instance, physicians and nurses can share lab results and other data promptly, eliminating the need for additional appointments and tests. 

Interoperability enables patients to access their health records, helping them better understand their health status and take a more active role in their treatment. That guarantees the reduction of administrative costs related to tracking and managing medical records and the costs of maintaining multiple systems for data storage.

Better Data Accuracy

By eliminating duplicates and outdated records, healthcare providers can ensure the data they use is accurate and relevant. Also, breaking down barriers between different healthcare systems allows for a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health. It ensures everyone involved in the patient’s care is on the same page. 

Besides, clinics can reduce the risk of medical errors and inaccuracies, such as redundant tests and treatments, and the time necessary to retrieve important patient information. That minimizes the chance of lost or incorrect data and helps ensure the proper information is available to all providers involved in the patient’s care.

What Are the EHR Interoperability Solutions?

EHRs, HIE platforms, and health information technology (HIT) are the most common healthcare interoperability solutions. EHR gives healthcare providers a 360-view of their patient’s medical history and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. HIE platforms provide a secure way to share patient data between systems and across different medical organizations. 

HIT solutions enable healthcare providers to integrate health-related data, such as lab results and medical images, into a single system. All of these solutions are designed to ensure they have access to patient information when needed while also protecting the security and privacy of data. But that is not all, as there are more healthcare interoperability solutions, standards, and protocols you must be aware of:

  1. FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): FHIR is an open-source healthcare interoperability standard developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7). It is a comprehensive set of specifications that enable healthcare data exchange between different systems. 
  2. Direct Project: The Direct Project is another open-source protocol facilitating secure healthcare information exchange between providers. Based on Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), it provides a secure, reliable, and interoperable means of exchanging patient information. 
  3. IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise): IHE is a set of standards designed to enable the exchange of health information between different systems. It uses existing standards such as HL7 and DICOM to enable data exchange between different systems. 
  4. Health Level Seven (HL7): HL7 is an international organization developing standards for exchanging healthcare data. It is widely accepted in the healthcare industry and used by many organizations.

Challenges of Interoperability and Possible Solutions

Despite the many advantages of healthcare data interoperability, such as better patient care, lower costs, and increased efficiency, organizations still need to overcome many obstacles that prevent them from taking full advantage of these benefits. Some of the challenges of healthcare data interoperability include the following:

Lack of Coordination

Although HL7 and FHIR are being utilized to create standards, the lack of uniform adoption and opposition to change have impeded progress. To tackle this problem, authorities must take a proactive stance and supply organizations with education, training, and the opportunity to form partnerships. In addition, open dialogue should be encouraged to facilitate collaboration.

Budget Constraints

Enterprises face a significant financial challenge when attempting to update their legacy systems, invest in interoperable solutions, purchase new hardware and software, integrate new tools with existing ones, train staff on how to use them and maintain and upgrade the relevant interoperability systems. To address this, they can seek funding from government agencies or private sector partners and use HIT or no-code/low-code solutions that unify data on a single platform. They will reduce the need for extensive staff training, making it a cost-effective option.

Security and Privacy of Telehealth Solutions

The security of patient health data is a major concern for healthcare providers. Data must be shared between systems to gain a full view of the patient, which increases the risk of data theft, hacking, and cyberattacks. To keep information secure and in compliance with regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR, healthcare organizations must implement strong security measures like authentication, access-based controls, and encryption.

How to Achieve Interoperability with a Reliable Tech Partner

Healthcare data interoperability serves many purposes and audiences. Taking proactive steps to ensure interoperability is necessary, leading to better health outcomes and patient experiences. Here are some effective strategies that you can put into practice.

Steps to the achievement of interoperability
Figure 2. Steps to the achievement of interoperability

Leverage Cloud Solutions

Cloud-based services have the potential to reduce the amount of data stored in silos. These solutions provide scalability, flexibility, and ease of use, making storing large quantities of structured and unstructured information possible. Cloud technology simplifies access to data, allowing stakeholders to acquire the information they need to improve patient care. 

Healthcare institutions should choose a cloud provider that offers FHIR services to ensure the data is accurate and consistent. A reliable partner will also help you resolve the key challenges of cloud data management in the clinical environment. 

Implement a Well-Planned Approach

For successful healthcare interoperability, being aware of stakeholders’ data needs and expectations is vital. That requires a thorough product discovery, which involves identifying the organization’s goals, any data collection and exchange disparities, and an appropriate understanding of the various data types and protocols. Through this knowledge, healthcare organizations can apply interoperability solutions that enable instantaneous data transfer and use point-to-point connections for successful information sharing.

Use Standardized Terminology for Documentation

For healthcare operations to run smoothly, it is essential to have consistent messaging, structure, content, and format. A unified language like “The Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT)” ensures that health data can be interpreted accurately and brings a common language for patients, care providers, and researchers. By coding clinical information, you can share and use data for collaborative purposes, leading to progress in healthcare through information analysis.

Partner with a Reliable Development Company

Working with a trusted healthcare software development vendor is essential for healthcare interoperability. That ensures the data is protected and the software can withstand the demands of the healthcare industry. An experienced partner can guarantee that the system is designed and tested correctly, meets all the security requirements, and complies with industry standards. 

A competent vendor can also offer the experience and expertise to provide critical support and maintenance for the software and monitor its performance to ensure reliability. With SPsoft, you can obtain a cost-effective solution for healthcare interoperability that satisfies all the requirements without sacrificing quality.

Final Thoughts: Achieving Interoperability in Healthcare 

Interoperability is crucial to the digital health landscape, and healthcare providers must understand its importance. They can ensure secure and efficient data exchange by learning about the different standards and technologies available and investing in the necessary infrastructure and systems. That will result in better patient care, increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved data accuracy. Fortunately, with a leading healthcare software development partner like SPsoft, your project is destined to succeed. 

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