Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of healthcare facilities as well as providers using electronic health records (EHRs). There was a significant increase in EHR adoption following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010; the use of EHRs became a legal requirement and was no longer optional.
Currently, most EHRs have their own unique designs and data formats. This can lead to issues because the unique data format of each EHR makes direct data exchange with other EHR systems more difficult if not downright impossible. For patients with multiple providers at different healthcare facilities, it may be difficult for the providers to exchange patient information due to the data format of each EHR. This can result in duplication of tests and may even lead to suboptimal patient treatment as the healthcare provider does not have the patient’s complete medical information.
What is healthcare interoperability?
Healthcare interoperability is the ability of different electronic health systems to exchange and interpret patient data in a manner that can be understood by all users. With interoperability, a patient’s information can be transferred to any healthcare facility to be used to continue medical treatment; this reduces the risks of test duplication and helps the provider offer better medical care since all relevant medical information is at the provider’s disposal.
In healthcare, there are three levels of interoperability:
- Foundational interoperability: This is the most basic form of interoperability. At this level, the different healthcare systems are able to exchange data with each other. However, the data received is of no use to the systems as they lack the ability to interpret the data.
- Structural interoperability: This is an intermediate level of interoperability. The different healthcare systems share the same data format and syntax; in other words, they speak the same language. As a result, these systems are able to share, as well as interpret, data easily.
- Semantic interoperability: This is the highest level of interoperability. Here the data is not only exchanged and interpreted, it can also be used by healthcare providers to enhance the delivery of medical care to their patients.
Healthcare interoperability tools
Interoperability tools are hardware and software applications that make it possible for different electronic health systems to exchange relevant data that can be used in patient care. With these tools, the unique data formats of the different electronic health systems no longer pose a barrier to the free exchange of data. These tools can be compared to language translators who make it possible for people who speak different languages to communicate with each other.
There are several types of healthcare interoperability tools available; discussed below are the two most commonly used tools.
- Integration engines: This computer software serves to link different electronic health systems. Data goes through the integration engine as they pass from one health system to another. The integration engine has several programs that translate data into a format that can be interpreted and used by the different electronic health systems. Interfaces are developed between the integration engine and the various electronic systems; data is exchanged along the interfaces. Integration analysts are typically responsible for writing the programs used to translate the data and to develop the interfaces.
- Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS): A drawback of integration engines is that the healthcare facilities typically need to purchase their integration engines and hire integration analysts to support them. An iPaaS is similar to an integration engine in function; however, the software and translation programs are maintained in the cloud by a third-party vendor. This saves healthcare facilities money in the acquisition and maintenance of the software as well as the hiring of additional IT personnel. In addition, iPaaS makes it easy to create additional interfaces for new EMR vendors.
At Interoptex, we offer an innovative iPaaS solution that can accommodate the data integration needs of any healthcare facility. Our solution enhances patient engagement and optimizes hospital workflow by simplifying the exchange of patient information both within and outside your healthcare facility. Contact us today for more information about our iPaaS solution.