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The Importance of Interoperability

We all know that interoperability is important. It allows for information to be shared among care teams regardless of their location. This is integral to the continuum of care. A number of issues are standing in the way of adequate interoperability, though.

First is the confusion between how HIPAA compliance and interoperability work together. With HIPAA penalties being higher than ever, many healthcare workers are fearful of exchanging patient health data over concerns that an inadvertent breach could occur and cost them their jobs. The cost of integration is another barrier, not just financially, but the investment of time that is necessary to achieve interoperability.

It’s estimated that extracting data for interoperability can take upwards of 52 hours a year, more than one full week of work, time that could be used on other endeavors.

Then there’s the lack of standardization. Without consistent formats for data capture, it’s impossible to reach full interoperability because data cannot be exchanged and interpreted correctly.

Interoperability is Necessary, but Slow to Develop

interoperability access messaging

Healthcare interoperability allows providers to exchange patient health data across practices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs, and more no matter the specific application used in each location. This means that all members of a patient’s care team can have full access to that patient’s health record. When interoperability is in place, efficiency and continuity of care are increased, leading to better health outcomes, and time and money is saved. Additionally, interoperability is an integral part of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) by way of the Promoting Interoperability category. This category, which counts for 25% of a provider’s final score, is designed to promote the exchange of patient information using certified electronic health record technology, and requires the use of a 2015 Edition CEHRT.

While few can deny the importance of interoperability, the realization of full interoperability is slow going. Per the ONC website, there are more than 850 EHR products with active 2015 Edition CEHRT certification as of April 2020, which is great.

Even so, the statistics on interoperability activities are less encouraging:


48% of physicians in private practice are electronically exchanging patient health data with providers located outside of their own organization


34% of physicians in private practice are able to find patient health information from sources outside their own organization by electronic means


31% of physicians in private practice have the ability to integrate electronically received health information into their own software without doing so manually


38% of physicians in private practice have the health information they need from other providers electronically available to them when they are caring for their patients

While this is progress, there is still some way to go.

Without Interoperability Headaches Ensue for Patients

When patient data isn’t shared between members of the care team in different locations, patients are forced to provide the same information multiple times and face unnecessary waits for procedures. For example, a 79-year old Southern California woman who lives alone in a retirement community was woken one night with severe pain in her hip and inner thighs, running down to her feet, leaving her unable to stand. When one of her neighbors heard her crying for help, they took her to a local emergency room where she filled out her admissions paperwork, saw a couple of physicians, and was eventually diagnosed with sciatica. After being given some pain medication and having her PCP contacted, she was discharged to return home. The next day her PCP referred her to a local pain doctor who she saw four days later.

During that visit, she was again required to fill out the same paperwork she had filled out in the hospital, even though the pain doctor seemed to have information on both her diagnosis and treatment from the hospital. By this point, her pain was so intense that the pain doctor refused to examine her and instead ordered an MRI to determine where the sciatica was originating so that they could give steroid injections to that location in order to ease the pain. The pain doctor gave her a paper prescription for the MRI along with another paper prescription for more medication, which she then had to take to a pharmacy and wait for it to be filled. It was another four days before the patient could get the MRI, making a total of eight days from pain onset at this point.

When she arrived for the MRI she had to again fill out the same paperwork she’d now filled out twice before. After the MRI was completed, she was told her results would be sent directly to the pain doctor the next day, but ultimately the results weren’t faxed to the pain doctor until the following Monday. That original fax was lost and another had to be requested from the imaging company. Finally, another four days later, she was able to be given her steroid injections and begin to see relief.

As you can see, without interoperability this patient had to endure more than twelve days of intense pain before receiving the right treatment. She also had to fill out the same paperwork on three separate occasions and had to deal with long waits and lost faxes. All of this could have been prevented with solid interoperability between the hospital, PCP, pain doctor, and imaging facility.

Revolutionize Healthcare with Interoperability

Today’s healthcare landscape demands interoperability, and the benefits far outweigh the effort needed to get up and running. First, with interoperability it’s easy to share patient data across care teams. Today’s patients see a variety of care providers across many different settings. In order to have the best possible health outcomes, the data created in each care location must be available in all of the other care locations so that all providers are on the same page. This improves safety and quality, leads to better informed care decisions, and also allows for robust public health registries which are necessary to stem public health threats.

Interoperability also improves productivity while reducing costs, two very important goals in healthcare today. According to research from the Ponemon Institute, physicians and other clinical staff waste a minimum of 45 minutes daily because of outdated communication technologies. With adequate interoperability, U.S. hospitals could save more than $8 billion dollars each year. This is because when interoperability is in place, clinicians have the information they need and are also able to see all procedures patients have already had. This reduces the amount of repeated tests, lowering costs, and making healthcare more efficient.

In short, interoperability improves the continuum of care by helping providers communicate with each other and team up on caring for their patients, each with a complete, accurate view of the patient’s health status, resulting in higher quality, safer, and more value-based healthcare.

MicroMD is Ready to Take Your Practice to the Next Level of Connection

Henry Schein MicroMD EMR is ideally suited to allow your practice to reach the necessary level of interoperability to improve patient care and provider efficiency. As a 2015 Edition CEHRT, MicroMD EMR not only allows you to send and receive patient health information for the purposes of improving care continuity, but also allows you to successfully attest for the Quality Payment Program (QPP) in the Promoting Interoperability category.

With MicroMD EMR, your practice can confidently move into interoperability, knowing that you are supported as you work to improve patient outcomes by doing your part to sustain the continuum of care.

Additionally, the following features all work to make MicroMD EMR integral to your practice’s interoperability journey:

MicroMD EMR’s open-architecture design allows for integration with a wide variety of third-party systems.
By using the HL7 standard, XML specification, and internet protocols, MicroMD EMR is able to exchange patient health information bi-directionally, making vital patient data available when you need it.
MicroMD EMR is able to connect with numerous medical devices, improving efficiency and reducing errors.
MicroMD EMR is able to send and receive electronic results from labs and hospitals, with interfaces in place for numerous national and regional laboratory service providers.

Ready to take your practice to the next level of connection?

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Healthcare Interoperability Resources


Today’s Interoperability Landscape


Challenges in Healthcare Interoperability


HIPAA Concerns with Interoperability


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