It’s more personal than you think.

Last May, Karen DeSalvo, MD, and former ONC chief argued that many interoperability discussions fail to consider an important party: the patient. EHRs have the ability to save lives, allowing providers access to crucial information like allergies, medications, and previous medical procedures across the continuum of care. At least, that’s the goal.

“IT is still in an adolescent phase… there’s a lot of hunting and pecking still going on,” said DeSalvo. But the patient isn’t just a passive party in the relationship between EHR and interoperability. “Many people have multiple electronic health records. We have a nice opportunity to leverage that data and make it more actionable,” according to DeSalvo.

DeSalvo’s point effectively illustrates that interoperability isn’t just a business issue. The personal aspect is highlighted in the case of an individual receiving care in a medical facility. Nearly all of us have been that individual – a patient. And many of us in the industry know the oft-cited statistic: medical errors cause 200,000 deaths per year. But what about the lesser discussed effects of medical delays, where clunky systems and inefficiencies clearly affect patient outcomes?

When Every Second Counts

That’s what Anthony Leon, an Interoperability Solutions Specialist painfully points out in his post “How Your Lack of Interoperability Hurt My Family.” In his article, Leon offers a first-hand look at how a medical delay prevented his sister from receiving the best care for her injury. After she suffered a severe injury while hiking, surgeons had a short window in which they could repair and restore feeling to her hand.

However, this surgical procedure could not be performed until medical records were received from his sister’s hometown – something they were told could take days, if not weeks. Ultimately, the window for follow-up surgery closed, and Leon’s sister had to go through a more invasive surgery to repair the nerves in her hand, which has left her on disability.

Access to Personal Health Records

As an interoperability specialist, Leon writes, “Now imagine the scenario where the records were able to be sent via Direct, or queried from the local HIE, or even if my sister was given her own PHR? She would actually be back at work, not on indefinite disability, able to return to class with ease and not have giant scars that span the back of her entire leg and arm.”

Leon notes that if given access to her own private health record (PHR), his sister could have circumvented the health system’s inefficiencies and taken control of her own prognosis. In fact, some argue that true patient-centered care should involve patients having full control over their own health records. Records that should be streamlined and written in easy-to-understand terms, so that patients can have meaningful insight into their own health, writes one digital healthcare consultant. In fact, many believe that a lack of EHR standardization is a large cause of medical errors in patient care.

Interoperability to Combat Public Health Crises

Outside of the individual patient, there are numerous ways that interoperability can help combat public health crises. Last month, the Health IT NOW (HITN) Coalition launched the Opioid Safety Alliance. The goal, writes Healthcare IT News, is “to make sure the data flowing to pharmacists, providers and state databases is easily accessible, secure and in real-time – even across state lines. This data could also help people with opioid abuse disorders get treatment.”

It is estimated 115 Americans die – daily – from the misuse of opioids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that nearly 30% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain are misusing the drugs. HITN plans to lobby for upgraded Prescription Drug Monitoring Program technology, a tool that would focus on interoperability improvements that could help eliminate the wrongful prescription of these drugs.

Although we do believe the business case for interoperability is strong, as we’ve discussed here and here, it’s worth noting that the case for interoperability also affects each and every one of us personally. And when patients have control over their medical records, as DeSalvo notes, it “creates a completely different window to their health world.”

Integration Now

Healthcare providers and vendors don’t have to come up with their own approaches and solutions to the healthcare data interoperability challenge. The Interoptex iPaaS integrates with all major EMR, EHR, Patient Registration and Practice Management systems: https://www.interoptex.com/emr-integrations/