Greater Interoperability in Healthcare 2022: Data & Technology

2022 has been a challenging year post-COVID-19 pandemic. It has overturned the way people look at their health in the face of life and death for the past 2 years. Public health has never been in chaos like how we saw it in 2020 and 2021 because COVID-19 defied even the tried and tested health management of providers, and the well-established therapeutic position of the pharmaceutical companies. The pandemic opportunities and obstacles changed the landscape of the healthcare industry, and it served as a pin light for all stakeholders of health to look at new and better ways of providing care.

Patient Demand

Patients have long advocated for greater and easier access to their medical records which was further shoved by the pandemic given the contactless demand in the last two years in providing care. At the same time, patients are also requiring the necessity to maintain their patient record privacy. 

Patient demand is the most critical point of view because it sets the bar for success in public health management and compliance. There needs to be a good measure of balance to address their demands, but not taking for granted the fact that providers are also pivoting fast as the landscape of their practice has changed over the last two years of practice.

Provider Response

On the other end of the health spectrum, healthcare providers are on the lookout for better ways to serve their patients including quality treatment and current effective best practices, especially in the face of the pandemic. On top of these adjustments in health management, documentation plays a critical role to ensure that continuity of care is still exercised as the different fields of expertise from doctors, nurses, all other medical specialties, pulmonary & rehab specialties, and other allied health experts work together to secure the best patient care.

In view of these evolving healthcare practice conditions, the demand for sharing health data increases, which is why all who work across the healthcare industry have a responsibility to create a better and more interoperable healthcare system.

Industry Support

To respond to the growing need to meet patient demands and provider pressures, the healthcare industry made an important step in 2021 amidst the pandemic with the establishment of the  21st Century Cures Act Final Rule. This was in partnership with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS), we talked a little bit more about this final rule in our previous blog here as well. The implementing rules of the Cures Act require all stakeholders involved in the delivery of healthcare including healthcare systems, select payer organizations, and Health Information Technology (IT) developers of certified health IT, health information exchanges (HIEs), or health information networks (HINs) to comply with the seamless exchange of electronic health information (EHI)

Health IT vendors are in a tough situation too as questionable information blocking and mandatory sharing need to be both addressed. Health IT vendors need to provide patients with access to their health data, primarily through FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) APIs. On the other hand, they also need to ensure that there is continuity and stability as the exchange, transfer, migration, and connection of clinical data registry happens across different health provider environments. 

For the success of implementing greater interoperability in healthcare, data privacy is another concern that needs critical attention. This is because even if patients demand easy and quick access does not mean that their privacy can be taken for granted.

Ultimately, health IT should make data sharing efficient to help with the consistent delivery of quality care to patients while maintaining a stable balance with their data privacy. On top of these important contributions, Health IT also plays a significant role in the advancement of healthcare systems from the early Meaningful Use requirements to successfully enabling patient access using any app of their choice, making accessibility and portability possible.

Success Requisite

The challenge is great for everyone in the healthcare spectrum. That is why the need to define frameworks for consent and segmentation and the technology applied behind them ought to be accurately determined. One of the key drivers for many industry players to achieve the said goals, include Change Healthcare participation. 

Change Healthcare participates in Health Level 7 (HL7), supporting the development of FHIR profiles, including those that can be used to communicate consent. 

“HL7 stands for Health Level 7 and it is a set of clinical standards and messaging formats that provide a framework for the management, integration, exchange, and retrieval of electronic information across different healthcare systems. HL7 standards are developed and maintained by Health Level Seven International, a healthcare standards organization.

The goal of HL7 is to enhance interoperability between healthcare information systems (HISs) that have implemented it.” Paessler 

Change Healthcare is also involved in the activities of the SHIFT task force (formerly known as Protecting Privacy to Promote Interoperability (PP2PI). PP2PI, now the SHIFT task force, is composed of expert stakeholders across multidisciplinary interest groups including the healthcare industry. The task force is continuously working to address sensitive data segmentation to protect patient privacy, yet also focuses to promote interoperability. 

The goal of the SHIFT task force is focused on the development of nationally accepted use cases, standards revision and administration of a national terminology value set, unanimity in implementation guidelines considering patient safety and data usability, and collaboration with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) on policy drivers to push widespread adoption.

Conclusion

Healthcare in 2022 has been very challenging but it also birthed innovative opportunities to improve the delivery of healthcare for patients. The integration of data and technology proved that public health can be in a better position by learning from large amounts of information and that their health and wellness can be better achieved when there is seamless sharing of medical records. 

Companies like Inferscience have taken advantage of these new wider rules to expand functionality. Inferscience’s proprietary technology can extract clinical data from any web-based EHR and standardize it. The data can be made available to any application via API. It is the expectation that expanding functionality with these types of features will at the end of the day benefit providers and patients as well. 

The most important consideration, therefore, for the continuing success of this road map is for all interest groups to participate with attentiveness and intentionality. Because in the end, collaboration is the key to greater interoperability in healthcare.

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