interoperability, rope, braid

interoperability, rope, braid

Much is said about efficiency in healthcare, but the key – interoperability – is often recognized and rarely implemented. However, the failure to achieve true interoperability has left many practices with Frankenstein-like systems that have a mind of their own. When systems operate under different rules and speak different languages, the experience of every single participant, including patients, providers, payers, partners and public health institutions, is affected. Alternatively, when systems are in sync, staff work faster and smarter with fewer errors, which helps boost morale, patients can have better experiences, and the business itself will see better retention rates and increased profitability.

It’s high time medical practices refine their approach, unify their disparate systems, and embrace the technology needed for seamless interoperability.

How we got here

Historically, interoperability has been difficult to achieve because even if two systems talk to each other, only one of them may not talk to another system. Allow connection between everything systems is usually time and resource intensive and has a high cost. Their different technical specifications and capabilities can also make it difficult to share information seamlessly and in a HIPAA compliant manner. All together, these challenges cause confusion and friction both within the systems themselves and with the experts trying to create a cohesive solution that works for everyone.

Interestingly, the pandemic accelerated interoperability efforts. This became imperative for the survival of the healthcare business, which was becoming more intensive and complex than ever before. There was no more leeway for data errors or limitations that made it difficult to accurately and efficiently share information during this time, and as a result many received some improvements in the functionality of their electronic health records (EHRs). A report by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and KLAS Research found that two-thirds of providers (67%) often or almost always had access to required patient records in 2020, compared to 28% four years ago.

The EHR is the central hub for storing patient data, reporting clinical and demographic details, billing and insurance information, and more. These different business units have their own unique systems, and they all need integrations to feed into the EHR so that patient data can be easily transferred, helping to maintain system harmony. Although some progress has been made in recent years, there is still work to be done. A recent benchmarking report from the Emergency Medical Services Association found that nearly a quarter of respondents are looking to change EHR solutions in the next 24 months, primarily due to the lack of features and functionality of their current system.

To create the best, most seamless patient care experiences, best support staff with smoother workflows, and drive revenue for businesses, the technology stack needs tools that talk to each other—and the good news is that is possible.

What unlocks true interoperability

As we enter the modern era of healthcare, it is clear that no single tool can be a one-size-fits-all solution, including most EHR systems. Supportive technology must therefore be implemented to ensure that systems can effectively communicate with each other to improve service quality and practice performance.

Solutions today, for example, have powerful automation capabilities and integration APIs that can seamlessly transfer patient data and other information, such as patient appointments, into the EHR without manual input. The technology can then automatically transfer schedule details or other information, such as registration data, to the patient’s record. It’s all there, in one place, for every member of the care team and administrative staff.

Here’s what true interoperability can unlock with the right technology:

  • Enhanced Patient Care Journey: Patient data flows between the EHR and other systems, so providers can easily share accurate, up-to-date information with other care team members and administrators. In fact, sharing information between systems has become so critical to the patient journey that The law of cure established rules against blocking information (ie, interfering with access to or use of electronic health information), with some exceptions. Sharing data between systems not only creates a more seamless patient experience, but also avoids the degradation of patient data. For example, each different provider may ask the same questions to the same patient, and each time that patient is likely to share different details, which can affect the consultation. In the event of an accident or personal problem, having to share details over and over again can be incredibly difficult for them. By having systems that truly talk to each other—that allow seamless sharing of patient records—providers and other team members can all work from the same content and can avoid having to ask the patient redundant questions that they otherwise would affected their experience.
  • Streamlined operations, increased revenue: Facilities are always looking for better margins that come from operational efficiencies as well as better patient and staff experiences, all of which are a direct result of interoperability. One Solv customer, a large EMS system, adopted integration solutions and experienced a 52% reduction in waiting room wait times, 11,000 saved data entry man-hours, and 10+ hours per week that each staff member get back by avoiding manual data entry and phone scheduling. Thanks to this efficiency, the system was able to process a higher volume of patients, gaining 700,000 new patients to the system, helping to increase revenue.
  • Clean data for timely and more accurate payments: Interoperability delivers clean data from the start, which saves a huge amount of time and resources that would be needed to correct errors and significantly reduces rejections and denials in the payments and claims process. If certain codes fail, the team is able to aggregate and analyze data to understand how to reduce those specific failures in the future. Armed with accurate data, facilities can also renegotiate terms with payers around metrics such as keeping patients out of the emergency room. Clean, better data tells why a facility should be paid more every few years, ultimately leading to better outcomes with payers.

Interoperability is the key to facilitating organized and efficient data sharing between EHRs and other information systems. This results in maximum efficiency and increased revenue, a better experience for both patients and providers, and healthier, more sustainable businesses – just a few of the many benefits. The best part is that it is achievable today with the right strategy. It’s time to embrace the technology that can make it all possible.

Photo: James Brey, Getty Images

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