2018 Is The Year of Interoperability

By Craig Luce, President of EHR Integration Services

Since our inception over a decade ago, EHR Integration Services has participated in the integration and growth of electronic health record enhancements in hundreds of practices and healthcare organizations. While EHR systems have pointed to a more informed, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare system, we believe that there is still a core element lacking in that promise; true healthcare interoperability.

Often, practices approach EHR Integration Services with the same question; “How do we improve our practice performance while delivering high-quality care?” There are several answers to that question. However, the fundamentals of successful care deliverance come down to instant access to patient data delivered through shared health information systems.

While federal guidelines, policies, and rulemaking help us all understand the “rules of the game”, the development of healthcare interoperability will be driven by the experiences of everyday practitioners, patients, and technology innovators.This is why we are proclaiming 2018 as ”The Year of Healthcare Interoperability.” We are committing our resources to provide solutions and services that connect and strengthen information systems within practices and healthcare organizations.

The ability of different HIT systems and applications to exchange and interpret data is vital to the delivery of positive care outcomes. Additionally, we believe that interoperability will enable and empower patients to better manage their health. Our mission of providing “A Human Approach to Healthcare Technology” comes from our experiences with frustrated practitioners, who feel they spend too much time on data entry. That inefficient use of time diminishes their role as primary caregiver while interfering with the caregiver/patient relationship. We know that technology can improve healthcare experiences for both provider and patient, and we work towards that goal every day.

Many of the large EHR vendors are now taking steps to improve interoperability, including Cerner, Epic, and Allscripts. Even Apple is getting involved, which signals the arrival of non-EHR players. Hopefully, that will encourage the innovation required to make true healthcare interoperability a reality.

With the evolution of the emerging open standards like the HL7 FHIR specification and available APIs, we also see the promise of democratic data accessibility by caregivers and patients alike becoming part of the healthcare ecosystem. This will allow patients to manage and aggregate their own healthcare information into personal accounts. This offers a better understanding and management of their own health. It will be easier for practitioners to communicate frequently, in a more meaningful way, with their patients through these technology channels.

So what does interoperability mean for your practice?  First, it all starts with an ongoing evaluation of your healthcare technology systems and defining or reviewing your interoperability strategy. Here are some things to consider as we head into 2018: The Year of Interoperability:

  • Develop or update your interoperability plan to reflect changing technologies, interfaces, and solutions.

  • Get familiar with the HL7 Argonaut Project and the emerging FHIR API

  • Look at where “Information Blocking” may be impacting your practice’s ability to access information from disparate systems or vendors, and work towards resolving information roadblocks.

  • Consider the “Patient Experience”. What do your patients want to get out of an office visit or caregiver experience? What information is important to them?

  • What will the “technology” future of your practice look like? What will patient expectations be for information access in the future? Will your systems be capable?

  • Lack of Interoperability will affect value-based care and population health.

EHR Integration Services’ commitment to our clients requires that we make technology easier to understand and use while encouraging the promise of value-based care by embracing open standards and information exchange throughout the healthcare technology ecosystem. With this in mind, we urge all vendors, practitioners, and stakeholders in the healthcare community to focus on working towards a fully integrated interoperability approach to healthcare information technology.