Why Interoperability is Strategic

As HIMSS14 approaches next week, we are sharing a pre-show guest blog series from health IT industry experts on trends you can expect to hear about at the event. Below is a guest contribution from Joe DeSantis, Vice President of HealthShare Platforms for InterSystems.

All across the world, healthcare organizations are on a journey to improve health outcomes, lower costs, and deliver more patient-centered care. From a technology standpoint, the typical approach has been to bring in a series of software solutions, each targeted at a specific problem. Over time, you end up with more and more “siloed” applications that don’t talk to each other.

You begin to drown in complexity.  Costs escalate.  And clinicians and patients don't have access to all the information they need in a comprehensive patient record – data is scattered among disparate systems.

It’s as if you were building a house one room at a time  – instead of starting with a solid foundation that will accommodate current and future needs. This is why today’s health IT challenges require a health informatics platform, connecting data, systems and people. With this approach, solving problems becomes easier over time.

From Tactical Integration to Strategic Interoperability

In recent years, a common approach to medical record sharing was to take an existing application, such as a doctor’s office EMR, and add enough rudimentary communications capability to perform basic record sharing.

This type of basic integration can only go so far. Strategic interoperability is about the kinds of things you can do after you have a true health informatics platform in place. For example, if you show up in the Emergency Room at Albany Medical Center in New York, with your permission, they can bring up a summary of your medical record. It draws from a number systems that house your medical records across the community – especially your primary care physician’s – and includes current medications, allergies, and other vital information. This kind of information can literally save your life.

Another example is smart notification. If you are discharged from the hospital and run into problems, such as discomfort or pain, the first thing you do is call your doctor. Without current information, your doctor may be forced to advise you to go back to the emergency room. If your doctor is part of a health information exchange powered by a health informatics platform, then he or she already received an alert that you have been to the hospital and can bring up your complete record, as well as the discharge summary containing the plan of care. In many cases this is enough information to address your problem – say, by adjusting a prescription. This can help lower readmission rates for the hospital, reduce costs overall, and create a better experience for the patient.

What questions do you have?