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Interoperability and Data Sharing in Healthcare: What You Need to Know

data sharing and interoperability
December 27, 2023

Interoperability and data sharing have become ubiquitous topics in healthcare. These intertwined topics describe a future state where healthcare providers and organizations use technology that is compatible across multiple platforms and can easily access important information — all with the end goal of delivering better health outcomes. If you’re not thinking about interoperability and data sharing, it’s probably time to start. Keep reading for details on these important healthcare topics.

What’s Driving the Push Toward Interoperability?

There are many factors that are pushing the healthcare industry to embrace interoperability and data sharing. Chief among these factors are regulatory initiatives. Recent years have seen multiple guidelines, incentives, and pieces of legislation that all aim to boost interoperability in healthcare, including:

In addition, the healthcare industry is in the process of transitioning to a value-based care model. This model emphasizes improved patient outcomes and cost-effective care. Interoperability is a crucial piece of the value-based care puzzle since it facilitates care coordination, data sharing, and the exchange of information necessary for population health management.

Similarly, the rise of interorganizational models is contributing to interoperability. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and other collaborative networks rely on interoperability for effective information sharing and care coordination among different organizations.

Technological advances are also playing a role in the drive toward interoperability. Electronic health record (EHR) systems, advanced health IT infrastructure, and health information exchange (HIE) platforms have become more common throughout the industry. All of these technologies help to advance interoperability.

The Benefits of Interoperability and Data Sharing

While there are numerous factors nudging the healthcare industry toward interoperability and data sharing, it’s important to pause and consider why this transition is a good idea. In short, this shift is seen as a key component for a more efficient healthcare system that ultimately improves the quality of care provided to patients. Benefits of interoperability and data sharing include:

  • Coordinated Patient Care: Different healthcare systems and providers would be able to share patient information seamlessly. This would ensure that everyone involved in a patient’s care has access to the most up-to-date information.
  • Better Clinical Decision-Making: When healthcare providers have access to comprehensive medical records, they are able to make informed and timely clinical decisions. Having a holistic view of a patient’s medical history, medications, and treatment plans also helps to prevent medical errors.
  • Efficient Workflows: Interoperability minimizes the need for redundant data entry and paperwork. It also eliminates the need for healthcare providers to track down information from various sources.
  • Public Health Surveillance and Reporting: Interoperable systems contribute to timely reporting of diseases and health trends. This is crucial for public health surveillance, enabling authorities to detect and respond to outbreaks quickly and effectively.
  • Reduced Healthcare Costs: If providers can easily access a patient’s existing diagnostic results, it will help to avoid unnecessary duplicate testing and imaging. This will reduce costs as well as the potential risks associated with some of these procedures.

What You Can Do to Improve Interoperability and Data Sharing

Interoperability and data sharing sound great, so how can you help to make it a reality within the healthcare industry? Here are some steps you and your organization can take to prepare for and achieve interoperability:

  1. Assess Your Current State and Readiness: Your first step is to figure out where you are on the road to interoperability. Assess your current health IT infrastructure, including EHR systems, data storage, and communication protocols. You will discover your organization’s current level of readiness and also see which areas need improvement.
  2. Establish Interoperability Governance: Form a dedicated team to oversee interoperability initiatives and develop procedures for data sharing and exchange.
  3. Upgrade and Modernize Your Health IT Systems: Once you have leadership in place and you understand which systems may hinder interoperability, it’s time to start upgrading or replacing legacy systems. Choose EHR and other IT solutions that prioritize interoperability.
  4. Promote Data Quality: For interoperability to be most effective, the data must be accurate. Implement data quality initiatives within your organization and standardize terminologies and coding practices to eliminate ambiguities and inconsistencies.
  5. Train and Educate Staff: Make sure all stakeholders know how to use new IT systems and understand new policies and procedures. It is also helpful to reinforce why interoperability is important to the organization.
  6. Monitor and Evaluate Performance: As with any significant initiative, you’ll want to establish some metrics to measure the success of your interoperability efforts. Have key performance indicators (KPIs) in place and continually monitor your performance against those benchmarks.
  7. Be Ready to Adapt: New technology is constantly being developed. Try to keep an eye on the latest developments to see if there are new solutions that could realistically improve your interoperability efforts.

By focusing on these steps, you will help to position your organization as a leader in the drive to healthcare interoperability. More than that, you will also be enhancing your organization’s ability to deliver high-quality, patient-centered care that is cost effective and efficient. In light of all these benefits, it’s not hard to see why interoperability has become such a hot topic in modern healthcare.