The Importance Of Fully Interoperable Healthcare Systems

Original Article by
Posted on May 28, 2021 by Erin Hayes

Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Enquire, a leading innovator in the senior care industry. 

The conversation around interoperability focuses mainly on EHR systems, the goal being to ensure that patients and their providers have access to all of their healthcare data. But the value of interoperability goes beyond EHR to every system within the healthcare IT ecosystem, including CRM, as I’ve seen in my work with fully interoperable CRM and marketing automation solutions.

What is interoperability?

Put simply, interoperability allows different healthcare information technologies to communicate with one another. This is important for many reasons, which I discuss below, but here are a few data points that highlight the problems associated with keeping data in silos rather than interoperable systems:

• Patient matching across organizations is highly inaccurate, with match rates as low as 10%-30%, according to The Sequoia Project.

• One in five hospital chief information officers say patients have been harmed due to record mismatches, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

• Doctor’s offices and hospitals employ between 0.5 and nine full-time staff to manage mismatched or unmatched patient records, per data from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

The stats above point to two of the biggest benefits of interoperable healthcare IT systems: better patient care and operational efficiency. Here, we’ll dig into these applications and explore a few more.

Improved Patient Care And Patient Experience

Patients may receive care from a variety of providers — not just clinics and hospitals, but senior care facilities, home health agencies and more. Integrating data across the continuum of care gives all of these providers access to a patient’s full medical history, which means they can provide the best possible care. In a 2018 survey of U.S. health system executives and finance leaders, 52% said that data sharing is the technology that will have the biggest positive impact on the patient experience.

Decreased Errors

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States (pre-pandemic), and 44% of these deaths are preventable, according to an analysis published in The BMJ. While not all medical errors can be attributed to errors in medical records, some of them certainly can.

Data entry errors are the top reason for duplicate medical records, which impacts the accuracy of patient matching. Errors like these often lead to the ordering of duplicate lab tests and other inefficiencies that cost healthcare systems both time and money.

Vaultara allows for rapid, contact-less access to essential imaging data and improved efficiency.

Plus a reduction in operational costs associated with medical image sharing.

Reduced Administrative Costs And Increased Efficiency

More than one-third of healthcare costs in the U.S. are administrative, according to a recent analysis. Interoperability reduces those costs by reducing the number of staff required for data entry and managing mismatched or unmatched patient records. By one estimate, “standardized, encoded, electronic healthcare information exchange” can save the U.S. healthcare system as much as $78 billion every year.

Easier Invoicing And Billing Process

Beyond medical records, interoperability can span all systems healthcare providers use, including billing systems. The Business Payment Coalition estimates that e-invoice adoption could save businesses $4 to $8 per invoice. For a hospital issuing 2,500 invoices a month, that’s $10,000 to $20,000 in savings every month on invoices alone.

Referral Capture, Evaluation And Follow-Up

Whether you operate a hospital, a skilled nursing facility, or a home care agency, your business likely depends heavily on referrals. When a new referral comes in, say from an institutional referral source, how efficient is your process of capturing, evaluating and following up on that referral? On the flip side, do you have a process for soliciting referrals from satisfied patients?

With interoperability, you can capture referrals from all sources, follow up with them, track their patient journey (even after discharge) and solicit new referrals, all within the same system.

View a demo of Vaultara's self-hosted image sharing software, Flight.

Increased Technology Adoption

The expansion of healthcare IT has come with a related problem — the challenge of getting people to adopt new technologies. Interoperability goes a long way toward solving this because users can log in once and have all of the data they need at their fingertips, rather than having to toggle between several different systems.

Still, any new technology can come with hurdles to implementation. Organizational technology adoption can be greatly improved with the following best practices:

• Prior to the launch of any new technology, get buy-in from all stakeholders. From leadership down to the employees who will use the technology on a regular basis, it is imperative they understand the benefits.

• Better define organizational benefits by setting goals. By defining the goals, staff understands what is expected and, most importantly, it gives them a yardstick to measure success.

• Provide proper training. Proper training ensures your employees understand the new technology and are able to use it effectively and with confidence.

Once the technology is in place, solicit feedback about how it is going. This could take the form of one-to-one conversations, team lunches or online surveys. This feedback will help you address any small problems before they become big ones. It will also provide valuable information about your technology launch process so you can refine it for the next time.

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