As globalization continues to allow people across the world to communicate with increasing speed, interoperability is allowing various software and computer systems to communicate and share data. While connecting the many complex systems in the healthcare industry, it’s essential to keep in mind the importance of interoperability and how it is improving the patient experience and health outcomes.
In healthcare, interoperability relates to the capability of computer and software systems to exchange and share data from a range of vital sources, including laboratories, clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and medical practices.
A patient faints while traveling out of state on vacation and visits the emergency room. Interoperability allows the emergency room doctor to access the patient’s EHR to check for an underlying medical condition, recent procedure that may have caused the fainting spell or any other pertinent information the patient may not be able to report. Updating the patient’s EHR provides the patient’s primary physician with a full picture of what happened, including results of any tests conducted, so they can recommend follow-up testing or treatment, if needed.
Some medical practices and other healthcare organizations may be reluctant to share patient details over networks that can be accessed by different databases because of security concerns. Data security is continually improving and becoming a standard practice of other highly regulated industries, such as banking, leading the pros of interoperability to outweigh the cons.
Interoperability directly leads to benefits including:
- Improved Efficiency: When data is presented on a consistent basis, no matter where the data is being sourced from, practitioners can quickly access and understand the information they need to make decisions about treatment.
- Safer Transitions of Care: Having a complete understanding of a patient’s medical history is crucial, especially when managing a chronic condition or acute situation that involves multiple healthcare providers. Being able to access medical records across state lines can allow an emergency room physician to provide more thorough, timely care.
- Lowered Costs: Interoperability allows useful information to be shared in a timely manner, often in real time. This reduces the amount of time it takes healthcare providers to access patient data and reduces the need for repetitive testing. Lowered costs are a natural result of the increased efficiency interoperability provides.
These benefits lead to increased patient engagement and better outcomes, allowing medical providers to spend more time focusing on the care of the illness or injury and creating a treatment plan.
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