Transformation of the healthcare industry will depend heavily on healthcare business and clinical systems working together to share data to connect, communicate and collaborate more effectively than in the past. As the industry evolves to value-based healthcare and increased accountability, and the interplay between providers, payers, patients and consumers becomes more necessary and frequent – the need for sophisticated and pervasive interoperability rises to a strategic imperative.
Interfacing – a loosely coupled, asynchronous form of application integration, is at the heart of healthcare interoperability. Interfaces need to be properly designed, tested, versioned, deployed and supported to avoid a fragile and unreliable information environment that lacks integrity. Healthcare providers need to look beyond conventional Health Information Exchange approaches.
For instance, the Real-Time Health Systems (RTHS), Gartner’s operational and technology framework for the next generation healthcare provider, will require sophisticated interoperability to acquire and disseminate the operational intelligence necessary for real-time, adaptive decision making. As well, new, more comprehensive and detailed views of the patient context – collected from systems and devices across all care venues and the home, and through virtual care and the Internet of Things will require world-class operability.
Starting to prepare for the future begins with an interoperability strategy and architecture, and identifying functional gaps and opportunities for modernization.
There is no shortage of interoperability standards development organizations and initiatives and information exchange networks. The interoperability problem is less of a technical problem than one born of a lack of commitment and cooperation among industry players and their natural reluctance to do things that may not be in their best interests, such as sharing patient information with competitors. The industry will have to address the paradox of investing in and promoting interoperability for its benefits, while restricting information sharing.
Patient health information is the common currency of the healthcare industry. The street value of the protected health information (PHI) contained in patient health information is considerable – however, its enterprise value has become priceless. Healthcare providers and vendors have come to realize that patient health information is the engine driving big data and analytics, and is critical to the success of value-based care and population health management.
While semantic challenges will persist, existing interoperability standards and networks are sufficient for exchanging high-fidelity patient information. As healthcare providers evolve to real-time health systems, CIOs should prepare for more-sophisticated health information exchange.
Healthcare provider CIOs implementing and managing EHRs, telemedicine and other care delivery IT:
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Edited by Hilda Folkerts, based on the research ‘An overview of Healthcare Interoperability and key considerations for upcoming challenges’, by Barry Runyon, published February 15th, 2018
Interoperability is a Strategic Imperative