What is interoperability in healthcare?
Interoperability is quite the buzzword in the healthcare industry today. Part of the buzz around it, however, is the difficulty with achieving this goal. Why is interoperability so hard to achieve? What are the challenges facing it? Let’s take a look
The absence of a standard way to identify patients
The first challenge is the need to develop a way a standard way to identify patients. In order to achieve full compatible system communication, a unique patient identifier would need to be assigned to every individual in the United States. This would assure that medical organizations can efficiently and accurately exchange patient health information. Overcoming this challenge would eliminate the errors that can be caused by mismatched patient records in EHRs. These errors increase the likelihood of patient harm.
The absence of consistent interoperability standards across the industry
Another challenge is the difficulty of enforcing standards for health IT interoperability. This needs to happen across a variety of facilities and care settings which proves to have it’s difficulties. When these standards don’t exist or are poorly enforced it creates a barrier to the seamless exchange of patient health information. Thankfully, a great number of healthcare organization alliances have been designed to promote standardization. These organizations hope to facilitate a more seamless exchange of patient information across the industry.
The absence of industry-wide interoperability measurement standards
The next challenge is the need to enforce interoperability measurement standards across the industry. As a variety of improvement initiatives are being enacted, it’s necessary for federal agencies to find a way to measure these initiatives’ progress. Yet the idea of acceptable measurement standards seems to vary from stakeholder to stakeholder, making achieving uniformity difficult.
The difficulty of coordinating stakeholders from all across the industry
Another challenge facing widespread interoperability is the need to coordinate stakeholders from all areas of the healthcare industry. Complete transparency and coordination is not something that members of the healthcare industry are used to. For that reason, the ONC outlined the need to develop consistent policies in their Interoperability Roadmap.
The need to end data sharing impediments and information blocking
The final challenge to interoperability is impediments to data sharing and information blocking. Even though Congress has declared it illegal to block the exchange of patient health information, this is still a problem. So far, policies put in place to stop information blocking have been ineffective. This leads to further efforts to stop this practice, but only time will tell if this challenge can be overcome or not.
Obviously, there are a number of challenges to healthcare interoperability, but this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The first step to solving any problem is identifying it, which has clearly been done. Many entities are working, both separately and together, to overcome these challenges and achieve widespread interoperability. Until that goal has been reached, we can each do our part individually to achieve interoperability in each corner of the healthcare industry. MicroMD can help.