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Five Must-ask Questions About Interoperability

Oct. 25, 2017 - The amount and types of healthcare-related data is rapidly multiplying, particularly as mobile health apps, virtual care and EHR applications proliferate and move to the cloud. The potential to have all patient, billing and business data in a single view is now a reality. The benefits to providers, payers and physicians are staggering when they can achieve meaningful interoperability among disparate data sources. For LTPAC operators, integration among EHRs and traditional partners like lab, imaging and pharmacy, is just a portion of the opportunity.

But before diving into the deep end, providers should ask themselves these five questions on interoperability.

1. Why do you want interoperability?

Consider the true benefits and establish clear goals and expectations before moving forward with connecting to other systems. To best determine goals and strategy, develop a committee to prioritize and advise on desired outcomes.

2. Who should you connect to?

Choose partners who are strategic and committed to making all systems work together with integrated workflows to align clinical systems, providing visibility into patient records such as admissions and discharges. 

Understand the relative value of what to exchange and for what purpose – for the sake of workflow, information sharing, public health reporting, analytics, and more. And if you are taking the lead in your healthcare ecosystem to initiate data exchange, have expectations around the other parties’ vendor capabilities, data governance and policies and ability to enforce them, and cybersecurity.

3. What level of interoperability should you implement?

According to HIMSS, there are three levels of interoperability:

1. “Foundational” interoperability exchanges data from one system to another. The receiving system is not required to be able to interpret the data.

2. “Structural” interoperability defines the format of data exchange so the clinical or operational purpose and meaning of the data is preserved and unaltered. It ensures that data exchanges can be interpreted at the data field level.

3. “Semantic” interoperability provides the highest level of interoperability, allowing two or more systems or elements to exchange information and use the information that has been exchanged.

Semantic interoperability is critical for bridging the terminology gap among different HIT systems and data sources. Semantic interoperability creates a common vocabulary that enables accurate and reliable system communication.

Technology is not the limiting factor, but rather the “human factor” of the collaborative team that actually performs the integration work itself.

4. How should you implement your interoperability plan?

In most cases, finding a third party specializing in interoperability is the best strategy. Partner with an interoperability solutions provider who has proven experience implementing semantic data exchange capabilities. Vendors that have proven experience integrating the entire view of patient data have uncovered the crucial keys to success for a smooth integration, which will help reduce project time and stay on budget.

5. When should I implement interoperability?

With narrowing networks and the increasing prevalence of value-based models of care, it is becoming more important to have a designated team with the appropriate competencies, a developed interoperability strategy and capable partners to turn interoperability into a meaningful clinical, operational and competitive advantage.

It is the time to become the leader or member of a network that exchanges data through the entire continuum, with interoperability providing the key to better care coordination and patient engagement.

Never before has so much data been available – and shareable – at one time. The appeal of having access to patient, billing, and business data at one’s fingertips is exciting and brimming with potential. And demands for data from existing and prospective care partners has never been higher.

But before venturing into data sharing/exchanging ad hoc, it is a smart move to assemble your team, agree to priorities and develop a comprehensive strategic plan that includes population health strategy, data strategy and interoperability strategy. It will invariably save time, rework, money, and assure the greatest ROI.

To learn more about how LG CNS can help answer your interoperability and other data-related questions, download the e-book, 4 Tips to Navigate the Data Ocean.

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