Last Updated | April 25, 2022
Overview: What Is the Main Advantage of Interoperability within an EHR
Is your electronic health record (EHR) system capable of sharing information with other systems?
If your answer is a no, then your front-end medical staff must be moving data up and down EHRs manually. This considerably reduces efficiency and affects your healthcare workflow by consuming long hours that you can otherwise spend on understanding patients’ needs and improving their experience.
Luckily, there is a method you can employ to connect multiple EHR systems to automatically exchange real-time health data, sparing you enough time to concentrate more on patients.
If you keep abreast of healthcare advancements, you have probably figured out it is EHR interoperability.
EHR interoperability automates the task of electronic health information exchange across healthcare organizations and increases efficiency by streamlining workflows.
With this basic understanding, we can dig this method further to discover what benefits it holds for you.
So, let’s get started.
What Is EHR Interoperability?
In general, the term interoperability refers to the ability of systems to connect with each other for exchanging data and leveraging it for the right purpose.
When it comes to EHRs, interoperability is about connecting different electronic health record systems to enable the exchange of patient health data between them. It creates a smooth process for the transfer of medical information from one provider to another.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities strive for EHR interoperability to achieve seamless communication and avoid information blocking. It keeps healthcare organizations in the loop and equips healthcare researchers with tons of real-time valuable health data chunks that can help them understand diseases better.
Successful interoperability among EHR systems comes with ensuring integration among the key areas of technology such as:
- Data processing and management
- Consumer device integration with EHRs
- Communication between systems
- Application interactions with users
Why Is Interoperability Important In EHR?
To understand the importance of interoperability in EHR, let’s start with why organizations need to be interoperable:
First things first, complex healthcare systems require diverse electronic health records to integrate and share information seamlessly.
Since not every EHR system has in-built interoperability functionality, they lack the ability to connect with other systems, creating a gap in sharing patient health data at the right time to the doctors.
Moreover, healthcare facilities employ different EHR systems based on various factors such as state requirements or the size of the care facility, so the diverse systems are unlikely to establish a single connection. Without this connectivity and open communication, the efficiency of healthcare facilities readily declines.
Therefore, interoperability among those diverse systems is critical as it creates a communication network between them and enables smooth data sharing.
When interoperability makes data transfer an automated process, it helps hospitals improve their workflows.
Interoperable EHRs increase the accessibility of patients and doctors to real-time health data on the go. They allow doctors to access a patient’s lifetime healthcare record with one click and patients to move smoothly across the care continuum without carrying their paper documentation.
So, they make a win-win situation for both types of users.
Additionally, EHR interoperability is crucial for organizations because it provides formats for easy sharing of health information and ensures data stays accurate and available at multiple locations.
It also minimizes the time patients spend searching for paperwork during their appointments and, in turn, enhances their communication with doctors.
Furthermore, by connecting EHR with medical diagnostic software, health record systems can achieve EHR data integration and enable doctors to compare new diagnostic reports with former patient records. It helps them develop data-driven treatment plans for individual patients based on their entire health records.
Ultimately, interoperability reduces ambiguity and improves health care delivery by making accurate data available to the right people at the right time.
What Are The Advantages/Benefits Of An EHR Interoperability System Within The Healthcare Industry?
The EHR interoperability systems come with numerous advantages for patients, healthcare providers, and small and large-sized healthcare organizations across the industry.
Interoperable EHR systems automatically pull data from one software, process it, and make it available in another in an easily accessible format, saving time for front-end medical staff.
By achieving interoperability in EHRs (including all 10 components of medical records in a hospital), organizations keep real-time information accessible to the right people when and wherever they need it.
In addition, there are many other benefits that the healthcare sector can reap through EHR interoperability, categorized as:
Benefits for Providers
Manual sharing of paper or even electronic records takes time which causes delays for clinicians in receiving patient medical information or results at the right time. It inhibits their ability to explicitly understand patient cases and finalize diagnoses to develop an accurate treatment plan.
With interoperability in EHR systems, clinicians get immediate access to digestible health data, helping them treat patients with minimal errors which otherwise occur due to delays in accessing data.
EHR interoperability solutions can even reduce liability to lawsuits that these healthcare providers may face each year because of risking patient lives.
Some other benefits that EHR interoperability offers providers are:
- Reduced redundancy
- Encrypted patient health records
- Boost in staff productivity
- Enhanced patient experience
Benefits for Patients
Not just providers, interoperability in EHRs also benefits patients by allowing them access to their complete health records that they can follow anytime.
When patients go to new clinicians, they can access their EHRs and past medical history immediately with the help of interoperability.
This easy access allows those clinicians to diagnose patients better and develop more accurate and safer treatment plans for their unique cases.
In addition to that, some other benefits that EHR interoperability provides patients are:
- Improved health care quality
- Better healthcare outcomes
- Lowered healthcare costs
- Custom-tailored treatment plans for their unique case
- Interoperable EHRs can eliminate redundant testing and procedure costs once clinicians learn that the same testing has been done in the past.
- Clinics can increase revenue through interoperability as clinicians will have more time to treat a higher number of patients in a relatively less period of time. EHR interoperability offers this efficiency by saving a significant amount of time clinicians otherwise have to drain on sifting through paper documents.
- EHRs increase accessibility to comprehensive and reliable electronic records, helping providers make informed decisions and promote safer treatments. In this way, they avoid the costs that the lawsuits can incur on organizations- in the aftermath of risking patient lives.
What Are The Challenges For Interoperability Between An EMR And EHR?
EMRs and EHRs are two different kinds of data storage systems. Since each one is a distinct system that uses different data formats, coding languages, and vocabulary, each shows resistance to interoperability, increasing challenges for administrators to seamlessly exchange health data.
Some of the biggest challenges that the healthcare industry faces for interoperability in EMR and EHR are:
One of the significant barriers to improving interoperability is managing unstructured data. That is because EHR systems collect enormous volumes of information from different sources. Though they store the data on a single platform, it still remains unstructured and unsystematic.
For example, if data about the same allergy exists in multiple electronic records with different terminology, it will form duplicate instances of the same information. Consequently, it becomes hard for clinicians to look up accurate pieces of information.
Unwillingness to share data
Many healthcare companies- such as Epic EMR integration providers- show reluctance to share EHR data despite the efforts of the industry to increase patients’ accessibility to electronic health records. The reason behind their resistance is security and privacy concerns for patients.
Additionally, some facilities do not back up interoperability because they feel it can threaten their business. When their EHRs are not accessible to other providers, it helps them lock patients in their system.
Since EHR systems contain a colossal amount of personally identifiable data (such as health, payment, and contact information) of patients and employees, they tend to be prime targets of hackers. This vulnerability often leads to data breaches.
According to Statista, data breaches have been significantly increasing in the US, putting concerned parties at risk and causing considerable damages.
In the US, the biggest data breach to date was recorded in 2015 when the personal data of 78.8 million individuals was at risk- as a result of a data hack. Therefore, not just patients but healthcare organizations also do not support the idea of interoperability with other systems.
Lack of expertise
The implementation of EMR and EHR interoperability is arduous. So, when a telemedicine software development company does not assess and evaluate a wide spectrum of factors before planning for any telemedicine software development, the software solutions they develop fail to achieve interoperability with other systems.
Cybersecurity and encryption
When third-party tools are added to an EHR system, its existing data and workflow formats need amendments. Once organizations make those changes, they have to ensure regular monitoring and maintenance of the whole interoperability architecture.
So, it becomes an uphill task for them to ensure cybersecurity and encryption of their data storage software while connecting to other systems outside their organizations.
Challenges for Small Practices
Besides the above challenges, successful interoperability requires organizations to meet massive requirements and make enormous changes to their existing systems.
Fulfilling the requirements that interoperability involves can become an uphill battle for small practices, especially when they are working without an ally.
How to Overcome Interoperability Challenges?
The Issue of Data Insecurity
Data insecurity issues must be nipped in the bud when developing the software solutions. So, the top healthcare IT companies developing EHR systems must achieve HIPAA compliance for software development. This ensures the solutions they develop follow HIPAA standards and keep patient health records secure while exchanging data.
Healthcare organizations use different EHR formats for data sharing, which makes it hard for them to make their systems interoperable.
So, in order to standardize data and keep formats consistent, organizations can use HIPAA compliance services such as Health Level 7 (HL7) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards. These are conventional standards that provide organizations with a single standard format for every data exchange.
Although data exchange formats differ a little from HL7 vs FHIR, they both leverage web technologies to standardize the data to be shared and are examples of excellent customer service in healthcare.
High Costs Of Integration
Organizations also avoid interoperability due to the high costs involved in the process to achieve integration.
However, now, with the development of web technologies such as HL7 integration solutions, interoperability has become an easy and cost-effective method for small and mid-sized facilities. Particularly, small practices can leverage web solutions to achieve interoperability cost-effectively.
For example, Cerner HL7 integration now utilizes HL7 messages examples to allow users to exchange data in affordable ways using their Cerner application.
What are EHR interoperability standards?
Interoperability standards define the format for health records to make health data electronically accessible. They are designed to achieve medical device integration and eliminate old ways of communication (through paper, phone calls, or faxing).
By outlining how multiple health record systems can be connected, interoperability standards aim to make healthcare data universally shareable.
What are EHR interoperability challenges?
One of the many factors that make EHR interoperability complicated is the distinct nature of systems. EHR systems are developed with different sets of features and unique interfaces to perform myriad tasks, so connecting them to perform the same function is a hard nut to crack.
What are barriers to EHR interoperability?
EHR interoperability has considerable barriers for healthcare organizations. Since EHRs use different coding languages and distinct nomenclature, connecting them involves high costs and endless efforts that small facilities may not be able to put in.
A worldwide group of hospitals prefers Epic software over Allscripts professional EHR despite the fact that it has a complex healthcare UX design. The fairly long list of the top hospitals using Epic includes St. Elizabeth Healthcare, St. Elizabeth Physicians, and Presbyterian Healthcare Services (NM).
What is Healthcare CMMS Software?
Healthcare CMMS software refers to a computerized maintenance management software such as ECODOCS that helps hospitals manage their equipment and assets. CMMS software also streamline hospital operations and workflows as well as enable doctors to focus more on patient care.
The Final Verdict
With interoperability, you can create a central repository for various electronic health record systems, allowing your organization to exchange health information securely.
EHR interoperability has significant impacts on the overall efficiency and productivity of hospitals. It becomes a more secure option for your organization when you take the aid of healthcare compliance services to become interoperable.
So, if your organization is looking for a tech solution to keep accurate health data accessible at multiple locations, you must opt for interoperability between all your health record systems.