Let’s imagine for a second.
Jane Smith, a 53-year-old diabetic patient, goes to her kitchen to grab a glass of water when she suddenly feels dizzy. She grabs her portable, battery-operated blood glucose monitor to check her blood sugar level and finds it is higher than usual. The HbA1c level from the device is immediately sent to her care team, who are connected with her via a common digital platform.
Her care coordinator calls and advises her to take an insulin shot at the earliest. Within a few minutes, she is visited by a nurse who assists in giving her the insulin received from the pharmacy. Jane is also asked to see her PCP as soon as possible. A week later when she consults her PCP, he is already aware of her medical condition and the medication dosage she received the other day. He looks at her profile on his EHR and marks the care gap that was created as closed.
Now, Jane, her care team, the PCP, the hospital, and the pharmacy can look into her medical records and manage her care with a few clicks on this online platform; and Jane herself has enough clinical insights to make an informed decision about her care.
Does all of this seem like a far-fetched dream?
Healthcare technology has birthed many dreams and turned them into reality. And yet, it lacks the capability to share clinical data efficiently at the exact moment of care!
What do we want from 100% interoperability?
When we talk about technology, the first thing that pops into our heads is Google. It’s an absolute comfort when we get a notification on our calendars that we might be late for an upcoming meeting. This is not rocket science, just two different products interacting on the same layer of a platform to make our lives simpler.
That’s what we want out of healthcare interoperability. We need to free up healthcare data from the shackles of disparate sources and hundreds of different formats. Healthcare organizations have created a complex web of EHRs and data platforms- as many as 16 distinct EHRs are installed at the average hospital! On the other side of the pond, only 2% of hospitals have a single vendor in use at their practice.
But wait, there’s more. If it’s not convoluted data, it is information blocking- something that has been highlighted in healthcare time and time again. As mentioned in a recent article, “Health information exchanges and health information networks are subject to penalties of up to $1 million for lack of interoperability. There’s no longer an excuse of distrust in data sharing.”
Even when we are past this, we have a number of different standards for sending, receiving, and managing information between healthcare systems. The difficulty in merely copying information from one data system to another result in mismatched data fields, errors, and worst of all: delayed care.
Finding the perfect solution
Today, with all of the data available on digital platforms, healthcare organizations need to figure out how to share it to best extract its value. It’s so easy for us to get a notification of any transaction on our credit cards within seconds! That’s the biggest requirement for healthcare interoperability: a network that is readily available to connect providers with data that is aggregated and holistic.
Once data is aggregated, the next step would be to activate it and share it in real time. Raw data is of little use; healthcare needs its data to tell a story. With data activation, organizations can set common standards throughout the network while enhancing patient-centric care. To save time in analyzing complex data over and over again or to eliminate requesting access to relevant patient information, activated data has to be delivered right at the point of care. It needs to be woven right within the EHR workflow to limit the number of cascading tabs on a doctor’s screen, which can lead to broken pieces of information and can be detrimental to patient care.
The road ahead
Now that we are well on the path towards value-based care and healthcare organizations are focusing intently on generating positive clinical outcomes, it is more important than ever that all providers across the continuum have complete transparency on the matters of care delivery everywhere. Having providers on the same page will aid in reducing all of the challenges that emerge: readmissions, unplanned ED visits, and whatnot. Building healthcare for Jane that thrives on real-time information exchange may seem like a far-fetched idea right now, but it’s easily going to be a way of life before we know it!