Healthcare Interoperability: Reasons, Challenges, and Solutions for Medical Services Providers

Tired of data inconsistencies resulting from information exchange with other healthcare entities? Feel the growing pressure of information exchange and connectivity standards? Healthcare interoperability – the ability of healthcare systems to smoothly exchange data – can solve these and many other problems. 

The idea of interoperability has been here for a while. But only in recent years, it has become a visible goal for healthcare providers. Based on a recent survey, 86% of executive leadership teams view this property as something very important to their organization. With the growing need for cooperation between organizations and the development of new data standards in healthcare, such as HL7 FHIR, interoperability becomes a must. Yet apart from the benefits, it also involves a range of challenges you should be aware of.

We are ready to share our knowledge on the topic. Read our new material to understand the value of interoperability in healthcare and get prepared for the most common challenges of interoperability.

Reasons to Implement Interoperability in Healthcare

What makes interoperability so valuable? It can bring healthcare providers a broad range of advantages. Check out the main reasons to ensure interoperability in healthcare below.

Optimized healthcare efficiency

Estimates show that more than $700 billion of the $2.4 trillion in healthcare spending could otherwise be avoided through improvements to the healthcare system. At least $30 billion out of this sum can be saved through firmly established healthcare interoperability. 

Medical device connectivity with electronic medical record (EMR) databases helps practitioners improve patient care by optimizing time management. Interoperability also makes clinical healthcare processes more consistent, which reduces the threat of costly mistakes. Here are the primary benefits of interoperability in healthcare processes. 

EMR gateway

Medical device and EMR interoperability also enable the medical system to exchange data automatically. Automation helps you scale the business up without significant staff extension and overwhelming investment. What does it mean in the long run? Medical device interoperability with a hospital information system allows smoothly transcending the barriers to your long-term growth. 

Regulatory compliance

Around 47% of technology executives from health companies believe that regulations are the main reason making medical businesses adopt interoperability. The medical industry is shaped by rules and guidelines issued by governmental and non-governmental organizations, such as HHS, IEEE, and HL7. When you adopt interoperability during EHR implementation, you achieve regulatory compliance. It’s proof that your healthcare systems are reliable and secure.

Overall, there are several data standards in healthcare and provisions behind them to follow. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are the key standard makers. Here are the main provisions that have already been implemented or will take effect and shape the industry in the next few years.

EMR gateway

All these provisions boil down to two interoperability standards. They enable the nationwide exchange of medical data and increase the overall quality of services within the industry. These are the 4th version of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) issued by HL7 and U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Learn more about them in the table below.

HL7 integration

By ensuring these standards, providers of medical services avoid severe penalties and gain a competitive edge. In the nearest future, compliance with such rules will become an essential factor allowing medical organizations to participate in Medicare/Medicaid and CMS-initiated insurance programs offering significant incentives.

More efficient cooperation with other healthcare entities

Healthcare is a complex system of interconnected entities that perform different roles. EMR interoperability is essential for healthcare providers’ cooperation with other medical organizations, such as third-party administrators (TPAs), clearinghouses, integrated health enterprises (IHEs), insurers, and others. 

When medical organizations achieve consistency in data sources and exchange through EMR interoperability, they get many benefits:

  • There is no need for redundant testing since practitioners can rely on standardized data delivered by other health services providers.
  • Healthcare providers can save time required for processing electronic medical records (EMR) or other data received from outside entities.
  • Consistent data simplifies integration during mergers and acquisitions.
  • Smoother data exchange and EHR implementation between medical entities improve the overall efficiency of healthcare providers.

The best thing about interoperability is that it helps the entire healthcare industry work smoothly as a well-established mechanism. It also makes medical services more accessible for people, improves the quality of care, and enhances the profitability of healthcare providers. 

 

Four Most Common Challenges of Interoperability in Healthcare

It seems that interoperability is an evident solution for healthcare providers pursuing better efficiency and profitability. Nonetheless, estimates show that around one-third of health systems in the U.S., one of the major trendsetters in digital health, still struggle with data interoperability. Why does such a profitable thing remain unachievable for so many healthcare facilities? The answer is simple: challenges. Read our list of the main challenges of interoperability in healthcare that prevent businesses from employing its full potential.  

#1. Issues with understanding the regulations

Secure and smooth information exchange is the most valuable requirement for interoperable healthcare systems. Unfortunately, many medical organizations fail to ensure regulatory compliance because they do not fully understand the healthcare standards and their implications. Another great challenge is to keep up with all the provisions and make sure that all elements of a system comply with them. 

#2. High cost of innovations

The average cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure to enable healthcare interoperability is $60,000 annually. These estimates do not include the expenses on training employees to comply with the requirements of HL7 FHIR. Such costs are overwhelming for many healthcare organizations. Although the expenses can be reduced with third-party outsourcing, they are still substantial enough to discourage medical organizations. Many providers of health services do not consider the material benefits of medical device interoperability and EMR interoperability. They tend to avoid costly innovations instead. 

#3. Lack of technology expertise

You need to have comprehensive skills to establish interoperability of complex digital systems. A well-thought approach is a must when it comes to connecting software to integrated medical devices. Many healthcare providers do not have enough expertise to map the project and choose the most appropriate technology stack for it. This leads them to false decisions and overspending. Such problems can even discourage many medical businesses from plans on establishing full-fledged interoperability. 

#4. Market situation 

Medical device interoperability largely depends on the basic features of devices. Unfortunately, device manufacturers are often not interested in making them interoperable. They face a lack of demand for such properties. There are also not enough generally accepted guidelines and standards for manufacturers establishing medical device connectivity.

Establishing Healthcare Interoperability: What is the Solution?

Do you lack skills and subject matter expertise to overcome such challenges? The best solution is outsourcing the development of interoperable health infrastructure to third-party providers.

A reputable technology partner can help you solve the biggest problems with interoperability in healthcare. Such a company will: 

  • Ensure regulatory compliance of your systems;
  • Provide the most cost-efficient software solutions;
  • Take ownership of all technical aspects of the project; 
  • Compensate for hardware inconsistencies with the right software architecture.

The key point is to find the right partner. It must have the required expertise and clearly understand the major healthcare standards and trends.  

Binariks is ready to extend a helping hand to organizations struggling with interoperability. We have solid industry expertise and help our clients with HL7 integration. Our dedicated software engineering specialists deliver secure, highly scalable, and cost-efficient medical software that complies with the essential industry standards.

Check our portfolio to know more about our experience and contact us to discuss your needs.