Interoperability of EMR (Electronic Medical Record) and EHR (Electronic Health Record) is a top priority for healthcare facilities worldwide. The market for interoperable healthcare solutions is expected to grow to US$4.2 billion by 2024 – nearly double that of 2019.
Why is EHR interoperability important for healthcare organizations? EHR/EMD interoperability means direct access to healthcare data for patients and healthcare professionals through secure communication channels. The benefits include better care and patient satisfaction, as well as lower operating costs.
Understand EHR interoperability and its challenges
Different types of EHR solutions are used depending on the practice in the medical facility. For example, there may be an EHR for a small and medium-sized facility such as a clinic. Then there are medium or large hospitals that provide comprehensive patient care and manage complex patient data, including detailed medical, laboratory, pharmacy or emergency medication/drug images and more. The EHR solutions used by the two medical institutions differ in functionality, clinical work processes, infrastructure requirements, etc. A complex healthcare environment, such as a specialized hospital, requires a variety of Electronic Health Records (EHR) to be able to seamlessly exchange information, which is made possible by introducing interoperability into the healthcare system.
EHR interoperability improves workflow when data is exchanged between different healthcare providers. This is done by integrating an EHR system that enables automatic access to clinical information inside and outside the healthcare system. However, integrating an EHR solution with other systems such as telemedicine solutions, patient portals, pathology reporting software, and even EHR solutions in other facilities poses several technical and administrative challenges.
Let’s understand this challenge in detail.
1. Unique Patient Identifier
In the early days of EHR in healthcare, there was minimal (if any) standardization for identifying patients, storing data, or creating treatment plans. The lack of unique patient identifiers poses a challenge to the effective exchange of medical information and patient records. Most healthcare organizations today use multiple information systems to collect, track, and analyze patient data, posing further interoperability challenges. Therefore, when planning a health data exchange system, prioritize standardization of the patient identification process.
2. Standardization of Information
Healthcare organizations use different standard EHR formats. Therefore, the types of electronic information they can exchange vary. To meet the integration standards, there are HL7 and FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standards, which define common data formats for information exchange in EHR systems. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a standard that describes the format and data elements of the Health Records Exchange API. It leverages the best of HL7 v2, HL7 v3, CDA and leverages the best web service technologies to standardize health information sharing. FHIR was founded by Health Level Seven International (HL7), a health standards organization. FHIR is known for its speed, high bandwidth, efficiency and security in data standardization, which is further useful in real-time data exchange. In scenarios where the real-time exchange is not required, HL7 2.0 and above is the accepted standard. To achieve interoperability of health data, it is therefore important for healthcare organizations to follow standard data formats for smooth data exchange.
3. Confidentiality and Security Challenges
To ensure the secure exchange of data, health standards such as HIPAA restrict the exchange of information between healthcare organizations and with third parties. To ensure compliance with security requirements is not a challenge during exchanges, health systems should implement appropriate HIPAA Business Association (BAA) agreements to enable integration with third parties.
4. High integration costs
Another reason why interoperability in healthcare is a challenge is because of the costs associated with the integration process. The traditional integration model is only available for large healthcare organizations. With the newly available and affordable integration models, medium and small organizations have the opportunity to opt for an affordable integration strategy. In addition to these technical, financial, and administrative challenges, there are several trust barriers, IT usability issues, and reporting barriers that limit the success of EPA integration. However, with a strategic approach and technical support, these challenges can be overcome and a better system for sharing health data can be built.
5. Lack of experience
Implementing EMR interoperability is a major challenge. The software development team should evaluate and assess:
Preconditions, work processes, technical specifications of your software Platform-wide dependencies and interactions Data retrieval mechanism Data management services (such as systematizing and standardizing data from other software and EHR) Cyber security and encryption tools
Depending on the solution, the technician may need to reformat and standardize your existing data. The workflow also changes as new third-party tools are added to the platform. As a result, an organization must regularly maintain an interoperability architecture. All of this means that experience is an important factor in health software development. You need a reliable team with the right experience to connect all business and clinical applications to your EHR/EMR system and keep data exchange smooth and secure.
Interoperability is the future of EPD and EPD. The interactive platform gives doctors, therapists, nurses and counselors access to relevant health information and offers better services. Healthcare providers without interoperable software and standard medical data formats effectively lock patients into their systems. On the other hand, as more patients demand more choice and freedom in making healthcare decisions, seamless data sharing between systems and organizations drives greater patient satisfaction.
Do you want to build a highly functional and future-proof EPD/EMR platform that complies with industry standards and local regulations? Healthcare IT Services enables third-party integrations to manage healthcare websites, applications, and software APIs. KPi-tech has a team of experts who offer custom software integrations. Read more about EHR interoperability in healthcare.
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