August 01, 2017
Facilitating Interoperability for the Sake of Coordinated Care

In this day and age of communication and information overload, it is more important than ever before to implement systems and technologies that can organize the relevant data accurately and in a manner that is meaningful and usable to the people that need it. The advent of the EHR as a tool for patient data collection has been viewed as both a boon and a curse to healthcare providers, providing them with a systematic way to document patient health information, while increasing the burden of data entry and consequently, their workload. Luckily, there are solutions to these EHR burdens through the help of certified medical scribes that can increase the accuracy of EHR documentation while simultaneously enhancing a healthcare provider’s workflow efficiency.

So now there exists the technology to organize and efficiently collect detailed patient information, and even the option of enhancing the efficiency of this technology with the help of medical scribes. But is this the end of the story? Does efficiency stop here at the level of the healthcare provider’s successful use of the EHR?

The answer is no. The shift in focus from volume to value-based care has increased the need for a team-based approach to patient care. This involves not only the healthcare providers and staff members within a hospital or practicing group, but also individuals and organizations outside of a particular institution that take part in care delivery and maintenance of a patient’s health. This more holistic approach to patient care involves the efforts from hospitals, primary care physicians, specialists, post-acute care institutions, social workers, and pharmacists, all of which need to communicate and coordinate efficiently and effectively to deliver comprehensive quality care. The key to this is interoperability and the sharing of patient information (from medical history to current status) via the seamless transfer of data between the different parties.

Benefits to smooth sharing

Focusing on how data is shared across healthcare organizations can improve coordination and consequently, the overall outcome of the patient. Enhancing the interoperability of EHR databases between different healthcare providers makes it easier to access and process patient information, so that the information that one healthcare provider receives from another is understandable and clear in terms of a patient status and what steps need to be taken next. Implementing interoperability between various EHR platforms also eases communication between healthcare provider parties in terms of the language and terminology used to describe medical events or conditions, thus achieving clarity with the status of the patient.

In addition, increased interoperability will also allow for greater patient engagement, allowing them to access and understand information regarding their own condition and consequently, increasing their motivation to take greater initiative in the improvement of their own health.

Several developments are currently on the way to establishing interoperability that will benefit communication and coordination within the entire healthcare spectrum of a patient. This includes standardization and certification of IT products and services while maintaining flexibility for individual work-flows, ensuring security of data transmission and protection of privacy, and aggregating collected data so as to be able to transmit this data, not only to benefit the care episodes of a patient, but also the public health sector. Such back and forth communication of public and private data can help individuals as well as the population as a whole.