Interoperability is defined as the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information, according to Google dictionary.
In the healthcare system, the idea of interoperability is more or less defined as the ability for electronic health records (EHRs) to communicate with either one another, or other systems within a same establishment. This would allow providers and patients to easily exchange health information between one another and potentially improve the actual flow of information through application programming interfaces (APIs).
Interoperability to Date
Despite growing importance put upon interoperability, such as CMS’ Promoting Interoperability category within MIPS, it still seems to be beyond reach.
During the last year, steps have been made to try and reach such a potential, but to no avail. From vendor reticence to privacy and standard concerns, the industry just hasn’t reached its interoperability potential.
The biggest concern to date is connecting medical records. With the move towards value-based payment models, pressure on providers for quality and cost of care is increasing. Having access to all patient data will help them control outcomes and therefore increase quality of care.
If the trend continues, data sharing will be seen as more closed off, slowing the adoption of value-based models and leading to interoperability being perceived as less and less feasible.
The Future of Data Sharing
A sustainable data sharing system stems from the ability to openly share valuable information from one system to another.
The goal is to securely provide healthcare professionals with a means to communicate with others as well as with themselves, a multitude of patient information, shareable from any device, anywhere they may be.
The Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) addresses interoperability needs for public health, clinical, research and administrative purposes. Sustainable interoperability goes beyond the technology itself. It demands that everyone uses and abides by the same specifications for data including:
- Code sets
- Structure standards
- Administrative standards
In doing so, coupled with technology that can ‘speak’ to one another, the healthcare industry can move towards the eventual possibility of interoperability that will stick. Moreover, as the adoption of value-based models increase, technology progresses and security concerns are addressed, interoperability will continue to gain ground and may become a reality in future years.
Even the private sector has stepped in, with Apple promising the availability of consumer health data directly on their iPhones via the Health app.
So, what is in store for interoperability? With CMS putting forth and updating standards as well as software vendors seeming to begin catering to the new norms of data sharing, we might well be on our way to achieving a form of sustainable interoperability. However, will this happen in 2019? I highly doubt it.