Improving interoperability in healthcare is a goal that all medical providers, clinicians, and even legal professionals should aim for.

Creating a faster, more secure environment to send and receive patient health records online is something everyone benefits from.

Unfortunately, in 2021—ten years after interoperability and meaningful use became a thing—some are still dragging their feet. 

Here’s the definition of interoperability, plus some solutions that could help healthcare providers work towards universal adoption in 2021 and beyond.

interoperability in healthcare obstacles

What Is Interoperability In Healthcare?

Interoperability, also commonly referred to as healthcare data interoperability, allows different information technology systems to communicate and exchange health data. 

Basically, it’s the ability of two online systems to exchange—then use—a patient’s health information. Both the transmission of the data and the seamless ability to access it are important.

The goal of interoperability is to deliver personalized care to patients and consumers. 

The term can be used to describe medical records being shared between doctors, records being sent to third parties (such as personal injury attorneys), and even health information curated from fitness trackers like Apple Watches or FitBits.

Benefits of Interoperability

Benefits of interoperability in healthcare include:

  • Better efficiency
  • Reduced costs
  • A better patient experience
  • Easier transmission of health records to third parties using online secure portals, like in a personal injury claim
  • Better security features, such as end-to-end encryption, audit trails, and password protection

Why Is Interoperability So Difficult? (Obstacles)

Unfortunately, only about 50 percent of health providers and 80 percent of hospitals use electronic health records. Ultimately, interoperability won’t be achieved until those numbers reach 100 percent.

Here are some of the drawbacks that keep the healthcare industry from moving in this direction.

1. Not Everyone Is on Board

Since 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, health institutions have been working towards making electronic health records and interoperability standard across the industry.

In the decade-plus it’s been, great strides have been made. After all, just ten years ago, 63 percent of medical providers used a fax machine as their primary method for sharing health information. 

Unfortunately, 96 percent of hospitals are on board, but lack of cooperation, undesirable regulations, and physician burnout keeps 1 out of every 5 medical clinicians from making the transition to digital health record sharing.

2. Lack of Terminology Standardization 

Hundreds of EHRs are used across the country, many of which use different schema and 

EHRs are calibrated for specific use. This lack of standardization makes it hard for some technology systems to read the data they receive.

This runs against HIMSS guidelines, which recommend that:

“Data exchange schema and standards should permit data to be shared across clinician, lab, hospital, pharmacy, and patient regardless of the application or application vendor.”

3. Volume of Data

The sheer volume of data being sent online today is overwhelming.

Even though more medical providers are using EHRs, many aren’t using their full capabilities.

For example, only a few years go, 6 percent of healthcare providers could send and receive medical records between doctors (as per Meaningful Use definitions).

what is interoperability in healthcare

How Can Medical Providers Achieve Interoperability? (Solutions)

Here are some solutions that can help medical providers achieve seamless and safe interoperability.

It starts with medical providers getting on board with electronic health records (EHRs), but there’s more to it than that.

1. Start With Patient Care

It’s simply a fact: most people see more than one clinical healthcare provider. 

Even those who stick with the same primary physician their entire life might still go see a specialist or visit a hospital. In all cases, having easy access to medical records online is important.

As medical providers, starting with what gives the best patient experience is key. 

While an initial investment and learning curve is required, it could lead to better patient satisfaction and more efficient company systems down the road, which means a good ROI.

2. Revisit Meaningful Use Incentives

Meaningful use incentives used to reward healthcare companies for adopting technology. But in 2021, it’s more about the penalties that facilities receive if they don’t adhere to standards.

As the EHR landscape continues to evolve, education is key. As HIMSS stated in 2013, interoperability is achieved through structurally, foundationally, and semantically.

It isn’t just about getting people set up with interoperable EHRs. Getting people to use and believe in the systems is a larger consideration that long-term will lead to better adherence.

3. Consider Machine Learning & AI

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are making their way rapidly into the healthcare field. Fortunately, this could be a good way to improve interoperability in healthcare.

ML and AI are both fantastic ways to sift through the massive amounts of data. You can also train machines to code or recode old or outdated schema, helping to make medical records accessible on more EHR platforms.

Interoperability Outside of Healthcare

In a world that’s becoming more digital by the second, there are other advantages to be gained by incorporating interoperability practices.

For example, it’s not uncommon for attorneys to request medical records in the event of a personal injury claim.

ShareScape’s secure, cloud-hosted portal connects busy medical providers with attorneys.

Tailored to meet both the size and demands of your medical practice, ShareScape’s portal makes it easy and safe to send medical records for personal injury patients.

Request a demo today to see how ShareScape could help improve efficiency at your medical practice.