Let's face it - the lack of interoperability has been a thorn in the industry's side for so long that most physicians, nurses and other providers have simply assumed that the phone (invented: 1876) and fax (invented: 1843) are their only paths out of the four walls of their clinic. In a practical sense, it seems as though the only road to communication was the one paved with paper.
Enter 2016. Data exchanges are finally taking root, realizing a nationwide fabric. It can enable secure data sharing with anyone else – all at the click of a mouse. With the functionality turning on for hundreds of thousands of providers nationwide. A host of new post-interoperability behaviors may finally be observed.
I have spent the last five years meeting providers in at least 20 states across the country, of all specialties and seniorities, and the stories highlight the dire need for interoperability again and again. Here are a few stories shared by providers. Especially, it really struck me as opportunities to create a real impact through interoperability:
I met one young aspiring physician during her third year rotation in the emergency department of a major hospital. Her quote underscored the importance of timeliness of the data, as she shared her experience, "I needed to get information about a young patient who was admitted through the emergency room. It took us eight full days to gain access to her records."
"Timeliness" has a different aspect to it too, as accentuated by the case of a primary care physician working at a large clinic. To her, "timeliness" meant the ability to access the data from within the workflow on demand, "If there is a patient in front of me and I have only 15 or 20 minutes to take care of him," she said. "I have no way to get the information that I need. At best, I can call his last doctor's office. Moreover, request they fax me the chart, but even that is usually a stretch."
I remember meeting an obstetrician-gynecologist at a wedding party, and when I mentioned what I do, he excitedly told me about his ongoing need to get just a little bit of data on pregnant mothers to find if they may have a condition that needs to be managed, both for their sake and that of the unborn children. That compelled him to utilize the disparate convoluted workflow. Specifically, that his hospital had set up for access to the State HIE. "I've never seen any data actually come through that portal", he said, dejectedly. His continuing struggle for patient data is a reminder that providers may be motivated. Especially, when they learn that their organization can access the data, but disappointment follows when no data is actually accessible.
When I think about these stories, it is clear that the need for "interoperability" is high whether or not providers call it as such. What also struck me was that, all of these above mentioned providers all pointed to the same underlying theme: I need the right data at the right time for this patient.
With the advent of CommonWell Health Alliance, the first version of the solution has finally started to take root. Now providers need to just give it a shot, and help shape true interoperability into what it should be.
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