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Interoperability will revolutionize healthcare by aligning incentives and promoting trust among various providers, health systems, payers, and community resources for addressing patient needs.

Recent mandates and strategies put forth by CMS, such as those for the Promoting Interoperability quality measure for MSSP, are focused on healthcare interoperability. Interoperability is the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data and interpret the shared data. Ideally, it is a smooth process of data exchange between various health providers, health systems, payers, and community resources for addressing patient needs.

Importance of Interoperability

A good system design will have seamless collaboration among healthcare stakeholders. This helps to achieve the Quintuple Aim of healthcare—better patient experience, improved population health, reduction in cost, improved care team well-being, and health equity. Healthcare providers will be in a better position to offer comprehensive care since they can view a patient’s medical history, past admissions, and test results.

Critical Advantages of Interoperability

  • Enhanced Patient Care: With a holistic view of patients’ medical history and the availability of real-time data, healthcare providers can make better decisions about treatment. As such, fewer medical errors can be achieved while offering more personalized care to patients.
  • Better Coordination: Through interoperability, communication and coordination between healthcare providers are enhanced. This is particularly important for patients with chronic illnesses who seek treatment under several specialists, especially those under Medicaid management.
  • Cost Reduction: By reducing duplicate tests and procedures and enhancing coordination of care, interoperability can reduce healthcare expenses.
  • Population Health Management: Comprehensive data access allows for better management of the health of a population through intervention and prevention strategies. This is crucial for the managed service organization or value services organization,
  • Efficiency Gains: Seamless data exchange streamline processes and reduce administrative burdens allowing providers to have more time for direct patient care.

Challenges Preventing Interoperability

Though the concept of interoperability seems obvious, practical implementation is difficult. Various challenges must be overcome:

  • Security Risks: Sharing patient data across systems and various organizations creates significant risks to privacy and security, requiring robust measures in place to safeguard sensitive health information.
  • Data Standardization: Standardization and formats vary among healthcare systems. Standardized data formats are necessary to allow frictionless sharing and integration.
  • Misalignment in Incentives: Organizations may be incentivized to hold on to data, fearing the loss of competitive advantage or patient loyalty.
  • Data Analytics: Advanced analytics make interoperability effective and help make sense of the vast amount of data that is shared. It is an investment that healthcare organizations would be prudent in making in both technology and capabilities.

Moving Forward with Interoperability: If Value-Based Care Is to Be Successful, We Need to Focus on Data Exchange

The renewed momentum toward value based care, along with recent mandates, will hopefully push healthcare toward interoperability. It will be a game-changer for the healthcare industry, helping address significant quality and cost challenges, as all key health stakeholders will have relevant information at the right time and place.

Strategies towards Improved Interoperability

Exploiting Standardized Data Formats: Standardized data formats and protocols will ensure a seamless flow of information across different systems.
Investment in Advanced Technology: Health systems need to invest in modern IT infrastructure and sophisticated data analytic tools to manage and interpret the data being exchanged.

In the right setting, collaborative efforts can align incentives and develop trust allowing more freely flowing data sharing among healthcare stakeholders. The continued support and mandates by regulatory bodies, such as CMS, will further drive interoperability standards and practices.

Interoperability will help achieve the Quintuple Aim: better patient experience, improved population health, the reduction of healthcare costs, care-team wellbeing, and health equity. There are certainly some hurdles to overcome, but the advantages of free flowing data are clear. Efficient and standardized interoperability will revolutionize the healthcare industry. Understanding and addressing interoperability complexities will enable healthcare providers to better care for the patient and contribute to a more efficient and effective healthcare system.

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