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Challenges in Achieving Healthcare Interoperability

An short white paper that examines the basic struggles in achieving healthcare interoperability.

Healthcare interoperability is the ability of different electronic healthcare systems to communicate with each other and exchange medical information. This is important because some patients may see more than one provider for treatment; alternatively, some ancillary medical facilities such as pharmacies may need to know some medical details about a patient before dispensing prescribed medication. In both instances, being able to share medical information across different electronic health systems enhances the quality of medical care offered to patients.

In addition to enhanced patient care, healthcare interoperability is also essential to the amount of money reimbursed to healthcare providers by the Federal government as well as other insurers. Financial reimbursement is more frequently being made using the value-based care payment model. Under this model, the amount of money reimbursed is dependent on the treatment outcome. Value-based care can only be effective if a patient’s medical information is freely and easily shared with all relevant providers so that quality treatment recommendations can be made.

Challenges of healthcare interoperability

Despite the benefits of healthcare interoperability described above, many electronic health systems and physician electronic medical records (EMRs) have not achieved complete interoperability. A 2017 report by KLAS Research showed that only 14 percent of healthcare organizations have achieved what is considered deep interoperability. Even though this is a low number, it is a significant increase from 2016 when only 6 percent of organizations reported deep interoperability.

Discussed below are some of the challenges faced by healthcare facilities and providers in achieving interoperability:

1) Lack of a patient identification standard

Every healthcare system has its unique patient identifiers that are used to identify its patients. Examples of which include the Medical Record Number (MRN), Financial Number (FIN), and the Community Medical Record Number (CMRN). Because of the diversity of patient identifiers across healthcare systems, it may be difficult to match patient results from one health system to another. In some instances, this can lead to a result mismatch with potentially adverse consequences.

2) Lack of interoperability standard agreements

At present, there are many different standards available to transfer messages across electronic health systems. These standards vary depending on the type of electronic system as well as the choice of the providers. The inconsistency of standards across the various healthcare system makes information exchange challenging. The information transmitted may be in a format not recognizable by the receiving electronic system and is therefore useless.

3) Information blocking and data sharing impediments

For proprietary and other reasons, some electronic healthcare systems are specifically built in a manner that makes it difficult if not impossible for information exchange to occur. Such systems are unable to achieve any level of interoperability and this may impact the quality of patient care. This is because relevant providers may not have access to all the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

4) Interoperability costs

Establishing interoperability with other electronic health systems is usually cost intensive. Integration engines may have to be purchased or cloud integration services may need to be subscribed to. In addition, integration analysts may have to be hired to maintain interoperability. Furthermore, there may be costs associated with establishing interfaces with the various electronic health systems.

5) Uncommon data sources

In addition to standard electronic health systems, medical information can also be collected from other sources such as smartphones and smartwatches. The interfaces required to transfer medical information between these smart devices and electronic health systems are complex and intricate; as such not many systems are equipped to receive information from these devices currently.

At Interoptex, we know the importance of interoperability to your healthcare facility. We also know the challenges faced in trying to establish interoperability with other healthcare organizations. We have specialists on hand ready to help you with this process. Contact us today for more information about how we can best meet your needs – we have solutions for each of the problems we listed above, including, our iPaaS, EMPI, and FHIR API products.