9 Challenges in the Era of Interoperability

Mid-way through 2019, much of the healthcare marketplace is well into Promoting Interoperability (PI), which is the most recently proposed electronic health record (EHR) initiative from CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid).Today many hospital IT leaders and CIOs nationwide are persisting on a path toward interoperability with many of their peers, however, while some lead the way, many others lag far behind.

Despite an initial push towards progress, for many of these healthcare organizations (HCO), the journey towards interoperability is still full of uncertainties and other challenges of various degrees.

It is the view of MEDHOST, as well as other healthcare information exchange (HIE) experts, that complete participation and achievement of interoperability is a key element to improving provider care quality and population health management. However, since the signing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which established foundational support for expanded HIE networks, interoperability adoption in the U.S. has been slow.

While it is nearly impossible to fully solve for all the uncertainties in the era of interoperability, we can, however, identify the challenges that may inhibit the speed of hospital participation and adoption.

9 Interoperability Challenges Hospital IT Leaders Will Face

According to the leading research company Gartner, hospital CIO’s can start working in tangent with EHR vendors to find an effective solution to interoperability by considering nine potential barriers hospitals may face.

  • Perception that data-sharing is bad for business – Some providers are reluctant to share patient data as they feel it will negatively impact their business. On the flipside, along with new legislation restricting “information blocking,” interoperability organizations like CommonWell Health Alliance are working to promote a culture of collaboration. Through a communal approach, CommonWell continues to encourage providers and vendors to work together for the betterment of care nationwide.
  • HIE maintenance costs – Along with the technical costs, access to interoperability expertise comes at a premium. If interoperability implementation can become standardized, something our own Brian Laskaris covers in depth, the associated costs may be viewed as less problematic.
  • Poor integration with older HIT platforms – Limitations brought about by reliance on older technology may throw up additional roadblocks to interoperability that require additional resources.
  • Integrations with current workflows – Data availability and proper use of data are not mutually exclusive. A hospital that can see every event in a patient journey must discover effective ways to get the most value from that shared data.
  • Clinical and staff participation – Convincing staff of the value and security of data sourced from outside a facility is just as important as training staff on enhanced workflows. Getting buy-in on interoperability’s output will take effort at all levels of an HCO.
  • Finding shared meaning in shared data – Technically termed semantic interoperability, the Gartner paper states that without consistent data compatibility, true interoperability will be hard to achieve.
  • Automated patient consent – Automating consent to share patient information often brings to surface tricky health data privacy issues for many providers. However, Gartner points to the example of Consent2Share as evidence of a solution capable of helping clinicians overcome this barrier. Content2Share allows patients to pick what data they want to make available, thereby helping protect physicians.
  • Possibility of data breaches – Protected health information (PHI) is a high-end commodity on the dark web. The potential of a cyberattack that includes both internal and shared data comes with a good deal of uneasiness. Security has always been a challenge for hospital IT teams and as interoperability expands it could potentially create more vulnerabilities in the data security landscape.
  • Interoperability investment of HIT vendors – Many hospitals may find themselves intrinsically tied to the interoperability plans or investments of their technology vendors. For example, MEDHOST and similar HIT vendors who demonstrate a drive to make healthcare interoperability a priority can help push the industry forward. Limited investment on the vendor side may restrict the interoperability efforts of the hospital.

With a knowledge of what lies ahead, hospital IT leadership should have an advantage in creating successful interoperability strategies. While there are still questions surrounding how to achieve nationwide interoperability, the good news is that there are indications at the state and private levels that an expansive healthcare information exchange, as envisioned by the Promoting Interoperability initiative, is a real possibility.

Knowledge of what interoperability may require will always give providers power. We strongly believe that participation in interoperability is one of the most important steps healthcare organizations can take to help the industry as a whole arrive at a standardized solution. If more healthcare organizations, HIT vendors, and other entities can collaborate on effective ways to help clear the path to interoperability, enhanced care quality nationwide should be a welcome by-product.

How can you get involved? Learn more about how we can work together towards improving rural health care and promoting interoperability during the National Rural Health Association’s 17th Rural Health Clinic Conference Sept. 17-18 and 18th Critical Access Hospital Conference Sept. 18-20 in Kansas City. Aug. 16 is the deadline for NRHA’s biggest discounts, so register today.

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