Interoperability in healthcare: what to consider

Interoperability in healthcare is the ability of various health information systems to access, exchange, and share data in an interrelated way across and beyond organizations to ensure the seamless portability of accurate human health data. Supporting interoperability through HealthIT.gov standards, certification, policy, and programmatic initiatives across the healthcare solution might be challenging, but exactly what the US government requires. Let’s imagine that people no longer have to carry medical records from one doctor to another. And health care providers have full access to their medical records — that’s the ultimate goal of interoperability in healthcare. 


Interoperability revised final rules released by The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May 2020 were intended to drive the US healthcare system into greater interoperability. The rules of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — the two initiators of the final rules — went into effect in November 2020. For now, all industry players — hospitals, health insurers and health information technology developers —  have only to comply with them.

To find out how to cover healthcare interoperability standards and secure electronic healthcare data-sharing in your healthcare solution, check our article. We will also write about the benefits providers can anticipate realizing specific capabilities offered by radical interoperability and why US healthcare institutions are betting heavily on it.

Ways how interoperability improves healthcare

Radically interoperable data are critical to the healthcare industry since providers can deliver more effective care, where physicians could see a complete view of their patients and patients could easily use their health information across different healthcare facilities.

Grand View Research predicts that the revenue of the healthcare interoperability solutions market will hit $4.7 billion by 2026.  Among the reasons why healthcare organizations tend to adopt interoperability is also because healthcare providers could better understand service utilization and demand.

By improving interoperability, organizations and industry decision-makers can examine how people access and use health information, regardless of the source. It will open up the opportunity to implement better care models, achieve higher patient safety, and improve the experience of the people they serve. 

So, talking about the benefits of implementing and enhancing interoperability, there are four main ones:

  • Improved coordination of patient care. With interoperability for patients, all administrative tasks and manual processes will be simplified.
  • Increased security and privacy. Your organization can prevent errors related to incomplete patient data by first collecting and interpreting data between systems and applications.
  • Greater performance. Interoperability enables organizations to not only examine trends in how data is changing and look at past performance but also make data-driven improvements in patient care based on that data. 
  • Smarter stakeholders’ experience. Data interoperability in healthcare can lower redundant administrative work both inside and outside of organizations, creating a more pleasant environment for both employees and those they serve.

But to understand the whole picture of implementing interoperability, let’s also look at the existing issues and how organizations can overcome them.

The healthcare interoperability hurdles and approaches to addressing them

Let’s take a closer look at the challenges and requirements that exist in the context of interoperability in healthcare.

Interoperability challenges

  1. Disjointed coordination and complex standardization. Interoperability cannot be achieved without close coordination among the various regulatory authorities and also without coordination within the organization. There are rigid standards and rules that health care institutions must comply with.
  2. Diverse technological needs. It is important to prevent an overflow of medical data, given that it is constantly flowing from one system to another. Interoperability in healthcare is finding a way to process information from EHRs/EMRs, IoT sources, internal hospital systems, and more. If you can’t handle all of this data at the same time in a high-quality way, it can and will disrupt your operational processes.
  3. Legacy systems. Healthcare facilities with legacy systems have two stumbling blocks. The first is to modernize their systems and the second is to meet interoperability requirements at the same time.

Below we will mention the existing requirements that need to be met. But it is also important to understand that there is no single correct solution, and in each case, it is worth looking for the most suitable one. Let’s look at the solutions that already exist after almost two years as the final interoperability rules came into force.

Steps to meet interoperability requirements

Here are the basic steps that hospitals and health plans need to take:
1)  Follow the precise final rules. To ensure a more efficient exchange of medical information, one of the main points of the final interoperability rules is the implementation of version 4 of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources from HL7 International (HL7 FHIR). FHIR defines the way data is exchanged with the help of HTTP-based RESTful APIs suitable for mobile applications. 

2) Consider a cloud services provider for interoperability. One cost-effective and fast way to build interoperable infrastructure on top of an existing system is to use cloud services that support the FHIR standard. Connecting multiple internal and external systems through a hybrid cloud platform can help in this case. Such an approach gives you the ability to merge and integrate data without sacrificing the personalization you need. Also, investing in data integration tools and healthcare analytics solutions is essential to avoid the process disruptions outlined above.
Leaders who have succeeded in achieving interoperability and helping all the healthcare industry players are: IBM FHIR Server, Oracle Healthcare Data Repository, and Google Cloud Healthcare API. 

Also, with the help of a hybrid cloud approach, you can deal with the legacy systems by extracting data and making it more visible to modern programs at the same time. This approach will allow the institution to keep data moving while working to update its systems.

3) Bring the focus to AI and blockchain. There is a trend to optimize electronic health information exchange services and use new technologies to sift through large amounts of data. We can say that the future of interoperability is tied to:

  • Artificial intelligence systems. They are based on machine learning, so they can handle an ever-growing stream of medical charts, records, and patient questionnaires. Thus, many healthcare interoperability problems related to data processing are solved. What’s more, such healthcare interoperable systems can provide real-time information, regardless of the source of the data.
  • Blockchain. This is one way to enhance security, which is crucial when exchanging large amounts of sensitive data. This technology shows the untapped potential for securing EHR information from unauthorized parties as it moves from one system to another. Moreover, blockchain can minimize the risk of data fraud, whether you exchange EHRs within your clinic or with other stakeholders.

Talking about perspectives, the Deloitte interoperability survey reports the following: “The future of health will likely be defined by radically interoperable data, open yet secure platforms, and consumer-driven care”.

If you are curious about driving interoperability across your healthcare system, you can learn how Yalantis is making the healthcare experience more connected to delivering value-based care.

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