The State Of Interoperability In Healthcare
Even as the healthcare information technology (IT) field has made strides to facilitate cooperation between EHRs (electronic health records), it’s become abundantly clear that we still have a way to go to achieve anything approaching complete and total interoperability.
All attempts at interoperability must inherently begin by recognizing the starting point that makes everything so tricky: EHRs consist of a series of disparate systems built in silos that are suddenly being asked to work together for the good of the patient.
That’s a tall order, although not an impossible one. Right now, much of the focus is on application programming interfaces (APIs), not surprising given the fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) standards developed and proposed by Health Level 7 (HL7).
We’re only at the very beginning of this journey, which is somewhat disappointing given the work that’s already been put in. A recent study revealed that just shy of 30% of hospitals were able to meet the four key metrics necessary for true interoperability: data integration, reception, distribution and finding. Even more alarming? These 2017 numbers were up from just 24.5% three years earlier, which means that only one in 20 hospitals attained interoperability in that time.
As these numbers make abundantly clear, many hospitals remain out in the cold when it comes to the successful sharing of patient health information. While some of our nation’s leading providers have embraced interoperability and embarked on exciting pilot projects and unprecedented methods of communications, others remain woefully underequipped for the challenges that lie ahead.
Let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t necessarily the fault of providers. Until relatively recently, facilities have not been properly incentivized to make interoperability a priority. It’s only now, in an era of value-based care where every aspect of an organization is being scrutinized like never before, that administrators are starting to rethink whether the systems they have in place act as a hindrance to overall care.
We as healthcare IT providers are hardly blameless. For decades, the focus was on the creation of walled gardens, closed platforms that didn’t play well with others. Hospitals didn’t have the choice to invest in an EHR that communicated openly with other EHRs; they simply sought the best system possible for them and their patients.
Restricted somewhat due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, competition and the very nature of the current system, healthcare as a whole finds itself in quite a predicament. While tech developers in other industries continue to come up with apps, software and hardware that create entirely new sectors of business, healthcare struggles to garner the widespread adoption necessary to simply ensure that providers are able to successfully communicate with one another.