A focus on the mechanics of interoperability may overlook its true intention: to create a portable, solitary record of patient health. Here’s what to look for when evolving toward patient-centric, smart interoperability.

Providers make better medical care decisions when they have the information they need, where they need it. A significant challenge for medical decision-making is having access to and analyzing health data from multiple disparate sources. The time and resources necessary to amalgamate data from different systems are costly in terms of labor and suboptimal health outcomes.

Some organizations have tried to expand the reach of their patient knowledge by adopting a single EHR system across their facilities. However, growing consumerism in healthcare means patients have options both inside and outside of their health system, and data exists beyond its confines. Patient information is found in out-of-network providers, labs, pharmacies, walk-in care centers, and imaging centers – to name a few.

And patients are ready for their providers to share information. A recent Pew Charity Trust poll found 81% of adults back increased access to their health data by providers.

Therefore, interoperability – a buzzword since CMS began launching programs for its promotion in 2018—is more than the mechanics of having systems communicate with one another. Patient information needs to be converted into actionable data to support positive health outcomes, increase clinical and administrative efficiency, and lower costs.

How can your practice achieve smart interoperability – the type of system that creates a central patient record, one that is a ‘true’ source of patient health information?

Your organization can take steps now to reap the rewards of smart interoperability as they emerge by looking for the below EHR functions.

EHR functionalities that promote smart interoperability

Patient record sharing

Providers can choose an EHR that is part of a national interoperability network, such as CommonWell Health Alliance or Carequality. These networks foster connections that exchange patient health information across the healthcare continuum throughout all 50 states. Participants can exchange data with any other provider in the network, regardless of differences in IT systems. For example, VOWHS’ EHR system is connected via these networks to over:

  • 12,000 labs and imaging centers
  • 1400 hospitals
  • 1800 payers
  • 110,000 providers
  • 63,000 pharmacies
  • 51 state immunization registries

Data organization for informed medical decision-making

It’s not enough to be in a network. Providers need organized and prioritized patient data to promote better health outcomes. To reap the benefits of interoperability, patient data must be helpful in real-time via a concise summary of patient information. EHRs should provide a single, chronological view of patient encounters regardless of where they occurred. In addition, records organized around care episodes make navigation easier.

Proactive communication is another benefit of smart interoperability to have on your radar. EHRs that monitor network usage and alert providers to patient encounters can help organizations manage both individual and population health. For example, smart interoperability systems can alert primary care physicians when diabetic patients visit ophthalmologists or are admitted or discharged from a hospital. Health care organizations with tools that promote a more holistic view of patient health will be in the best position to benefit from value-based care reimbursement models as they evolve.

Patient Engagement Opportunities

Not to be overlooked in the drive toward smart interoperability is the role of the patient and their increasing desire to monitor their health and communicate with providers between visits. Ninety-seven percent of Americans own a cell phone of some kind. Of those owning a cell phone, 85% own a smartphone.

EHRs need to be able to interface with smartphones to promote patient access to health records and help patients interact with their care teams in today’s atmosphere of consumerism. Plus, patients are gaining access to health devices and applications that connect to smart scales, blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, and more through smartphones. Looking toward the future, interoperability with these devices will become increasingly important to patients and the providers that care for them.

Have questions about how to promote smart interoperability in your practice? We’re here to help.

VOWHS makes it easy to focus on improving patient health with our comprehensive offering of medical billing management, patient engagement, telehealth, and smart interoperability solutions. Contact us today at (412) 424-2260 or visit www.vowhs.com to learn how we can help you optimize workflows, reduce administrative burdens, and maximize revenue.

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