Interoperability: A Game Changer for Healthcare 

Interoperability is a term that has been gaining popularity in the healthcare industry the last few years, but what does it really mean? Who benefits from it? From patients to providers and drug manufacturers to payors, most sectors in healthcare can benefit from interoperability. 

What is interoperability?

According to HIMSS, interoperability is “the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (systems) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.” 

In other words, your health information at one doctor’s office can easily be shared with another doctor’s office, if needed. The same can occur from pharmacy to pharmacy, hospital to hospital, hospital to doctor’s office, pharmacy to hospital, etc. 

What are some challenges?

The idea of interoperability seems like the obvious path healthcare should take. However, some entities are hesitant. 

In an article by Becker’s Health IT, a few barriers (according to the ONC) for interoperability in healthcare included: 

  • Technical Limits: “These limit interoperability through — for example — a lack of standards development, data quality, and patient and healthcare provider data matching.” 
  • Financial Barriers: “These relate to the costs of developing, implementing and optimizing health IT to meet frequently changing requirements of healthcare programs.” 
  • Trust/Competition: “Legal and business incentives to keep data from moving present challenges. Health information networks and their participants often treat individuals’ electronic health information as an asset that can be restricted to obtain or maintain competitive advantage.” 

Interoperability benefits many people

While there may be a few challenges to interoperability, the pros outweigh the cons. Patients and healthcare professionals have a common goalpatient safety and positive outcomes. 

Interoperability benefits: 

  • Patients: Patients and caregivers alike can benefit from the use of interoperability. Often, the patient/caregiver must do administrative tasks like filling out forms or searching for documents that can sometimes be inefficient and redundant. Through interoperability, patients and caregivers can focus on their health instead of the administrative duties that come with it, because data such as health records, preferences, and insurance information will be shared across providers’ platforms. 
  • Providers: If patients’ health records were communicated between healthcare providers, patient safety would greatly increase. Becker’s Hospital Review wrote: 

“Even if they have excellent interoperability within their own enterprise, hospitals may be unable to communicate with external affiliates and systems. Lacking data on a patient’s vital signs and history – including allergies, medications or pre-existing conditions — healthcare organizations may be prone to fatal errors. 

If care providers can exchange and examine data, they can analyze the exact cause of a medical error to detect the trends in the decision-making leading up to the error. Once a pattern has been identified, healthcare organizations can begin remediating these issues to prevent future errors.” 

  • Payors: With access to a full patient profile, providers can better serve patients to keep them healthier. Healthier patients generally mean fewer expenses for the payor.   
  • Manufacturers: With patient approval, manufacturers can access real-world data to understand patient behavior and how to help them on their journey to better health. This will give them a better understanding of medication use outside of a clinical trial setting.   

Think about your family, your friends, or any of your loved ones who have had challenges with their health journey due to a lack of communication in the industry. Don’t you want that to change? Interoperability could be the solution to it all. 

Learn more about owning your data. 

Read why people want to share their data with providers.