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Breaking through the Noise: Why is Interoperability in Healthcare Important?

By , DO, Medical Director
Interoperability, Population Health & Wellness
Why is interoperability in healthcare important?
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Infographic Interoperability in Healthcare

Why is Interoperability in Healthcare Important?

Healthcare technology has revolutionized how health systems collect and store patient data. The big challenge now is to make this information more accessible—to make it useful for clinicians at the point of care.

According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), 75 percent of hospitals can send and receive data between multiple clinicians using an electronic health record (EHR) and supporting technologies, but less than 25 percent are able to put that data to use.

The AHA report “Why Interoperability Matters” found that most hospitals have technologies in place that allow multiple clinicians and organizations to share patient information, but few have the tools needed for data integration—a key requirement for interoperability. The inability of EHRs “to speak the same language” and “to efficiently and correctly transmit information,” the AHA notes, are “among the most pressing issues facing health care stakeholders today.”

Interoperability: The Key to Better Care

So, why is interoperability in healthcare so important? Can clinicians treat their patients without connected health information technology (IT)?

In this report, the AHA highlights that patients often obtain healthcare services from a variety of caregivers in multiple locations—from hospitals, to pharmacies, to outpatient clinics. After conducting a survey of adult patients across the U.S., Transcend Insights found that 97 percent of patients believe it is important for any health institution to have access to their full medical history in order to receive high-quality care. Interoperability allows their care teams “to more deeply understand patients’ conditions and provide the best care possible,” AHA notes. It also allows for easier data-sharing with patients themselves, which is critical to involving them in their own care.

Another report, by the advisory group JASON, likewise notes “the growing demand of patients for flexible access” to their health data as key among the reasons interoperability is important to healthcare. In addition, the group confirms, interoperability makes patient records more accessible to providers, reduces “redundant testing and diagnostic procedures,” produces “more complete health records and more accurate health data” and promotes “better longitudinal tracking of patients and patient groups.”

Integrated Health IT: The Future of Care

Connected and integrated health IT, in other words, enables better coordination among a patient’s caregivers and makes data available sooner so they can use it in their decision-making. It also facilitates better patient engagement—and more efficient communication between patients and their care teams.

Interoperability may seem like a stretch for many clinicians working with patients on the front lines of care, but the day is coming where this will no longer be the case. Healthcare organizations recognize the importance of patient data and the role it can play in improving clinical care. They are realizing that interoperability is their ticket to better care and better outcomes. Connected and integrated health IT is the future of care—it is now only a matter of how and when.

Interested in learning more about interoperability in healthcare? Read our white paper Interoperability in Healthcare: Closing the Gap between Patient Expectations and Realityfor a deeper dive.