Nov 12th 2020

What Administrators Need to Know About Health Interoperability

Whenever a patient seeks medical care, new patient data are stored digitally in electronic health records. Up to now, health organizations have been focusing on the need to ensure that such data are made accessible to future providers across the care continuum, but the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted why data access and sharing are so important.

The pandemic has boosted the need for:

  - Digital case reporting

  - Tools to streamline processes

  - Technology providing better medication access

  - Effective telehealth services

All these services should be connected—typically with the help of Application Programming Interfaces or APIs—so that providers can efficiently access all the appropriate patient data at their disposal. Platforms promising health interoperability are now seeing soaring demand. According to a Frost & Sullivan report, the health interoperability market is expected to grow by more than 10% a year and hit $7.96 billion by 2024.

Every Healthcare Administrator Should Understand the Key Factors Driving the Need for Health Interoperability

— and What New Regulations Will Have a Major Impact

1. Value-Based Care Requires Access to All Pertinent Data

Considering hefty investments in health interoperability may seem counterintuitive at a time when most healthcare organizations are seeking to cut costs. But an accelerating shift in focus toward value-based care is a major factor in the growing demand for health interoperability platforms.

Organizations can only deliver value-based care if they have full visibility of all appropriate patient data, as well as advanced data-analytics capabilities for evaluating patient outcomes.

2. Apps and Medical Devices Need to be Connected, Too

The need to integrate patient data entails more than simply establishing access to existing medical records. “The capability to achieve medical device connectivity across the care continuum will be critical," says Koustav Chatterjee, Transformational Health Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

He also points to "real-time integration of accurate patient-generated data from connected apps and systems into a central command center platform" as a competitive advantage that will allow healthcare providers to "automate care coordination and personalize interventions."

3. Interoperability Will Become Mandatory

Health interoperability is the centerpiece of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's 21st Century Cures Act (ONC Cures Act). The ONC Cures Act Final Rule enacts interoperability standards to ensure that patients:

  - Gain clear information about the cost and outcomes of care

  - Understand competitive options

  - Receive secure access to medical data via smartphones and personal technology

The onset of the pandemic delayed the enactment of interoperability standards: payers now have until July 1, 2021 to meet the deadline for implementation.

Organizations will need to be ready to adopt standard formats, such as HL7 FHIR, to connect data sources, including electronic health record systems. In addition, API certification will lean on the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI), a standardized set of health data classes and data elements.

The smoother and more efficient exchange of patient data will be welcomed by healthcare organizations and patients alike. Given recent advances in enabling technology, now is the time to take the leap and unlock the full value of patient data by achieving health interoperability.