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Individualizing Interoperability: How Hospitals Can Improve Care by Helping Patients Manage Their Health Data

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Imagine living in a world where your medical health record follows you wherever you go. You could visit your doctor without having to answer the same questions on the same forms every time or remembering to bring up that visit to urgent care a few months ago. You wouldn’t have to lug photocopied records with you every time you see a specialist, or worry about your doctor missing an important detail in your medical history. That’s the CommonWell Health Alliance vision for the future of healthcare, and the scenario Jitin Asnaani hopes to help make a reality as executive director of CommonWell, a nonprofit association of industry leaders making patient data available to providers and patients regardless of where care occurs. Though healthcare providers have made tremendous progress in adopting electronic health records and making data accessible for clinical use as part of the initial stages of the Meaningful Use (MU) initiative, the industry still has a lot of work ahead to share that information seamlessly across healthcare organizations and communities. “We want to get to a world where it’s possible to find data on a patient everywhere they have been, and not have that data beholden to a certain provider they have been to or the particular technology system that provider used,” Asnaani said during an interview in the MEDHOST podcast lounge at HIMSS18. Asnaani likened the industry’s current data sharing obstacles to lacking the ability to message people through different email service providers. Providers need to be able to quickly determine what data is available about each patient and communicate across disparate EHR systems and organizations to obtain those insights at the time of care, he said. “It’s a human problem that we’re tackling together,” said Asnaani. “We need more organizations to realize that the future state of healthcare has to be centered around individuals and giving them the ability to manage their healthcare better.” Health IT vendors are increasingly seeing the value of baking interoperability into the technologies, developing so patient data can flow freely across platforms. “It’s about getting these disparate systems to talk to each other so the information can follow the patient,” said John Murray, who serves as National Accounts Manager for the OBIX Perinatal Data System, a remote electronic fetal monitoring system developed by Clinical Computer Systems. Clinical Computer Systems is also a member of CommonWell Health Alliance. “We’re at the infancy of that electronic medical record,” Murray explained in an interview in the MEDHOST podcast lounge at HIMSS18. “Patients are born and their information is housed in our application. Integration is paramount to moving that information to the EHRs and following those patients throughout their lives.” Developing technologies that integrate easily into the workflow of clinical teams is key to making systems more interoperable, Murray added. “What we need to do is find a standard, latch onto it and then push it forward,” he said.

Next Stage of MU

Though the next stage of MU requirements calls for greater interoperability of data exchanged between healthcare facilities, fewer than 30 percent of hospitals have fully interoperable EHRs, according to a 2017 study published in Health Affairs. Even fewer reported using the data they received from other providers to care for patients. Rural hospitals, in particular, struggle with making their EHRs interoperable. Unlike larger hospitals in more populated, urban areas, they lack the funds, staff, and technical expertise implement the most advanced EHR technology. It’s no surprise then that many smaller, rural, and critical access hospitals lag behind sending, receiving, locating, and integrating data electronically, according the ONC. MEDHOST is committed to helping hospitals in these markets overcome interoperability challenges so they can meet upcoming MU3 requirements and provide clinicians with the insights they need to deliver the most-timely, relevant patient care. “Physicians and care teams are better equipped to provide the highest quality of care when they have a complete historical record of the patients they are seeing,” Brian Laskaris, MEDHOST’s Director of Interoperability and Product Strategy, told CommonWell TV in an interview during HIMSS18.

CommonWell Partnership

A Contributor Member since 2014, MEDHOST has teamed up with CommonWell and its alliance of nearly 80 healthcare IT organizations. Especially, to expand how hospitals share patient data across care spectrum and improve how that information is delivered to users.

“We need to impact the workflow as little as possible so we get adoption from physicians and care team members. Ultimately the improved outcomes we’re looking for,” Laskaris said.

Interoperability has long been a promise the healthcare industry has struggled to fulfill, but Laskaris feels confident that efforts in both the private and public sector to improve the free flow of patient data will turn that tide.

“I believe it’s all going to come together, and we’re finally going to get the delivery physicians. Also, hospitals have been waiting for,” Laskaris said.

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