Why Is Interoperability Essential For The Healthcare Industry

The capacity to communicate and sufficiently share patient information over various IT systems and channels has gained absolute importance in the existing medical industry. By giving support in breaking administrative barriers, interoperability undeniably helps to add value to healthcare. Interoperability can offer better outcomes for patients along with a host of other advantages for healthcare providers.

With significant untapped potential, interoperability in healthcare is one of the most underused conceptions in the healthcare structure worldwide. As the industry is becoming more complex and diverse each day, there’s a need for an adequate management system to streamline processes and things for the parties involved.

And that includes everyone, from the lesser-educated patient who may be unfamiliar with the broad medical terminology to the doctor or practitioner who struggles to find the time to look for the patient’s previous medical records.

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Read on to find out everything you should know on the subject matter. We’ll begin by briefly explaining what interoperability is. After that, we’ll explain the three different types of interoperability for healthcare, and finally, we’ll lay out the benefits and advantages that this essential practice offers to the healthcare industry. Without further ado, here’s why interoperability is vital to this critical sector. 

Interoperability In Healthcare And The Relationship Between Health IT Interoperability And Health Data 

In a nutshell, interoperability in healthcare is relatable to what a book’s summary is for a reader. Interoperability puts together the patient’s full information and presents it in a simplified, crisp, and understandable way. Similarly, interoperability in healthcare is collecting patient data from various databases and submitting it to the healthcare provider. 

This makes it easier for providers to access patients’ medical history and conditions and be better prepared to treat each individual who walks through the door.

Proper Health Information Exchange 

Health information exchange is usually divided into several crucial steps: procuring, sending, receiving, and assimilating. If any of these steps isn’t handled appropriately or happens to be missed, the patient’s healthcare and productivity may get affected. 

Studies show that the transfer of patient data is way more manageable than receiving and integrating it. And since the sizes of healthcare-providing organizations significantly differ, so do their channels of data-based information. This means that while all the information may be available on cloud storage, it may be of little to no use to a rural healthcare provider because they won’t be able to retrieve it instantly. 

This real-life scenario raises the need for uniformity across all healthcare database management channels, and streamlining it will permit a similar healthcare standard in a rural clinic as in a cosmopolitan hospital.

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Reliability And Accuracy 

There was a point when handwritten notes or word of mouth on a patient’s condition were used to fill out medical forms and plan the course of action for treatment. However, with the insertion of electronic means of data-keeping, things have been continuously becoming more reliable. 

Nowadays, when you visit a medical facility, chances are you are going to be asked to fill out forms on a tablet. This suggests that there’s direct storage of your data, making it easily retrievable, transferable, and smoother to use for the doctors who will treat you for your condition. 

At present, healthcare providers have databases that doctors can log on to and access each patient’s case history. The reliability and accuracy of this type of data-keeping are what has made interoperability a widely recognized phenomenon. The health information exchange is a broad scope of data that the provider needs to study during the treatment. This data includes a clinical summary, a list of meds, lab test results, et cetera.  

Levels Of Interoperability In Healthcare

There are three different levels of interoperability in the healthcare sector, each of them with critical importance. These levels of interoperability in healthcare include:  

  • Foundational Interoperability 

Foundational interoperability offers the most basic level of exchange of information through diverse channels. This level permits the information transition from one medium to another and could be thought of as the interoperability pyramid base. 

  • Structural Interoperability 

This is where the format of the exchange of data is determined. The form is essential because the message’s structure needs to be such that the receiver of the information can interpret it with ease and utilize it to provide the best possible care to the patient. However, since health data cannot be 100% standardized, further analyses are a must.

  • Semantic Interoperability

The interoperability chain’s highest element involves coded streamlined data, which allows an improvement in patient data interpretation. The purpose of this third level of interoperability is to create a perfect machine-to-machine data transfer channel that’s accurate and reliable. 

The most important part of semantic interoperability is data normalization. The data has to go through different format changes, so terminology changes need to be saved and transferred in a uniform pattern to be retrievable by the other party. Semantic interoperability changes local content into standard terminologies and permits the semantic translation of data to remove any relative uncertainty.

Why Is Interoperability Essential And What Are The Top Benefits Of Healthcare Interoperability?

As technological advancements evolve, the need for being uninterruptedly connected has grown in all fields and industries, and the healthcare industry is no exception.

Interoperability narrates the extent to which IT systems and devices can exchange data and interpret that shared information. For two systems to be interoperable, they have to exchange and present that same data to the user to make the available data understandable and usable. 

The potential of utilizing software and computers to distribute data from vital sources like clinics, drugstores, labs, medical practices, and so on is of primary importance to healthcare interoperability. Here are the top benefits that interoperability in healthcare puts on the table for providers: 

  • Improved patient experience. Suppose your physician sends you for an MRI scan, and the radiologists can share your reports immediately even if they don’t use the same software as your physician. Interoperability enables this sort of uniformity in transmission and reception of information that is undoubtedly vital in healthcare provided to every patient out there.
  • Interoperability saves time. Needless to say, the time taken in the transfer of data between healthcare professionals or a provider and a patient can be reduced tremendously with healthcare interoperability. 
  • Lower costs. As interoperability permits the transfer of reliable information from one channel to another, the expenses sustained in medical treatments can become significantly lower. 
  • Superior healthcare transition. When a patient decides to move to a different medical facility or needs to change their healthcare providers for any reason, interoperability is out of great help. Anyone can forget the details of the last line of treatment, the meds’ name, the changes it brought about their condition or the relevant blood reports. Nevertheless, if there’s a proper electronic database, the new provider can easily pick up where the previous provider left.
  • Patient privacy. The doctor-patient privacy benefits enormously by the utilization of interoperability in healthcare. By cutting the need to manually update patient records from scribbled prescriptions, patient privacy can be maintained to a whole new level.
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Final Words 

The National Hospital Association recently released a report named “Sharing data, saving lives: The hospital agenda for interoperability.” The report makes it clear that healthcare providers should understand that the time has come to base the industry on the best, most complete information possible. And that’s possible through the implementation of interoperability because it offers a more effective and efficient healthcare process.

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