Importance of interoperability in healthcare highlighted at HIMSS 2017

By Karin Kelley

| Healthcare

Interoperability in healthcare isn't a new concept, but widespread implementation has been hindered.
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Interoperability in healthcare was one of the main topics featured and discussed at last week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems and Society (HIMSS) 2017 conference and exhibition in Orlando, Florida., with dozens of competitors working together on how to tackle the concept. Sessions covered a wide variety of issues, from security standards and government programs to patient privacy and industry standards.

Interoperability in healthcare

At a very basic level, the objective of interoperability is to enable the free flow of patient information across organizations, vendors, healthcare information systems and geographies. To put it another way, interoperability can be viewed as the exchange of information between electronic healthcare records (EHR) systems, laboratories, research outfits, pharmacies, insurance organizations, public health agencies, patients and clinicians. Ultimately, the goal is to create a health information exchange (HIE) to enable higher-quality and more timely healthcare through collaboration and connected systems with internal and external providers, as well as patients.

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The challenges of interoperability

Interoperability in healthcare isn’t a new concept, but widespread implementation has been hindered by many obstacles, most of which were discussed at the conference. First, focusing on technology isn’t enough — the technology must be implemented with business and policy workflows, which can be tough. Second, there needs to be a set of standards around data formatting so that various devices and EMS and EHR systems can communicate with each other effectively. To address these challenges, HIEWatch reports that the new administration claims it has set interoperability in healthcare as one of its top priorities, while the Office of the National Coordinator and other industry coalitions are also working on setting industry standards, many of which were discussed at the conference.

The value of interoperability

Though it may seem obvious, it’s worth pointing out the value interoperability can bring to the healthcare industry. For instance, a doctor who is seeing a patient for the first time can get instant access to prior medical records from other clinicians to make more informed decisions faster. For ongoing treatments, patients can transmit details around the progress of their conditions from connected devices as well as web and mobile applications. In another example, doctors can get access to the latest research and developments in the treatment of specific diseases and conditions to make the best choices in patient care.

There are many challenges yet to overcome, but all players in healthcare — from government officials to providers, insurance companies and, ultimately, the patients themselves — are aware of the benefits to be gained by providing seamless access to data through centralized HIEs. The transition to value-based care through connected devices and systems and increased data sharing is already well underway in the industry. At HIMSS 2017, the effort was abundantly clear.

Written By

Karin Kelley

Independent Analyst & Writer

Karin is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years…

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