Towards Interoperability in Healthcare

Michael has been experiencing breathlessness for a few days and he schedules an appointment with his primary care physician (PCP) for an early checkup. Sighting consistent health issues, his physician then refers him to a cardiologist at a hospital nearby.

On his visit to the hospital, Mike gets to know that some of his records are not available electronically. In addition to that, the health system at his physician’s office is not interoperable with the hospital’s health system.

As a result, the hospital staff has to put in tremendous efforts to collect and enter Mike’s medical history, which carries a huge risk of errors and a possibility of incomplete information. Mike is the major sufferer here, because he ends up waiting for an appointment. He has to travel multiple times to ensure that the hospital has all the necessary data required to take care of him.

Interoperability is one of the biggest challenges of healthcare today. So, let’s first understand what exactly is ‘’Interoperability’’.

As per Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS):

“Interoperability describes the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data, and interpret that shared data. For two systems to be interoperable, they must be able to exchange data and subsequently present that data such that it can be understood by a user.”

How does it affect healthcare?

Over a period of time, a patient’s medical records are generally available in fragments with different healthcare sources. Basically, patients do not have access to their records on any centralized platform. If healthcare systems are made interoperable, patients can get access to the right healthcare at the right time. This enables them to share their medical history with any physician at any another hospital at a different location irrespective of the healthcare system in use there.

As per the statistics shared in National Health Information Exchange and Interoperability Landscape report issued by

• 80 percent of providers reported that electronic data exchanges increases efficiency.
• 89 percent of providers testified that electronic data exchanges improved quality of patient care offered.

Healthcare organizations are making attempts to understand the concept and to leverage it to achieve better patient outcome, offer better care, and construct an all-inclusive picture of the patient’s overall health. They now also have a greater responsibility to implement platforms that provide a secure way for health records to be made available to other healthcare systems.

What are the technical challenges to ensure interoperability?

Implementing interoperability in healthcare systems can be really challenging. While standards do exist in the healthcare industry, they can be interpreted differently. Different systems might use different terminologies for the same definitions, leading to incompatibility between systems. The industry also has a lot of legacy implementations that make interoperability a much bigger challenge.

As per a factsheet shared regarding President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, one of the key investments includes $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.

Most healthcare systems in use today have some level of interoperability built into them. They save records in their native formats, to ensure their security and privacy, but then convert the data into the FHIR or another relevant standard, to make it interoperable.

Why Minerva?

At MphRx, we have invested heavily into healthcare standards, and compliance with FHIR in particular. With our Minerva platform,we leverage our extensive library of integrations to existing healthcare systems (based on HL7, DICOM, IHE, and XDS) to aggregate and store healthcare information as native FHIR. We have built workflows and applications that enable the secure exchange of healthcare data through modern web and mobile applications—including existing EMR systems. Compliance to HIPAA regulations ensures the security and privacy of the patient’s information.

Minerva enables patients to share medical history with any physician across the globe irrespective of the healthcare system that they are using. All at the touch of a button.
Minerva enables physicians to get a more holistic view of a patient’s medical condition and offer better medical advice, leading to better patient care and improved patient outcomes.
If you are concerned about interoperability challenges or the unusual expenditure required to prepare your health system to be interoperable, talk to us.

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