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 / EMR interoperability means direct access to healthcare data for patients and healthcare professionals via secure communication channels. The advantages include better care and patient satisfaction as well as less 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 mid-sized or large hospitals that offer comprehensive patient care and manage complex patient data, including detailed medical, laboratory, pharmacy or emergency medication/medicine images and more. The EHR solutions used by the two medical institutions differ in terms of functionality, clinical work processes, infrastructure requirements, etc. A complex healthcare environment, such as a specialized hospital, requires a variety of electronic health record (EHR) products, which need to be able to exchange information seamlessly, which is made possible by introducing interoperability into the care system.
EHR interoperability allows for a better workflow when data is exchanged between different caregivers. This is done by integrating an EHR system that allows automatic access to clinical information within and outside the health care 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 presents several technical and administrative challenges.
Let us understand this challenge in detail.
1. Unique patient identification
In the early days of EHR in healthcare, there was minimal (or no) standardization for identifying patients, storing data, or creating treatment plans. The lack of unique patient identifiers poses challenges to the effective exchange of medical information and patient files. Most healthcare organizations today use multiple information systems to collect, track, and analyze patient data, which creates further interoperability challenges. Therefore, when planning a health data exchange system, prioritize standardization of the patient identification process.
2. Standardization of information
Healthcare organizations follow a variety of standard EHR formats. Therefore, the types of electronic information they can exchange vary. To meet 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 uses the best of HL7 v2, HL7 v3, CDA and leverages the best of 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. However, in scenarios where the real-time exchange is not required, HL7 2.0 and above is the accepted standard. In order to achieve health data interoperability, 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 limit the exchange of information between care organizations and with third parties. To ensure that compliance with safety requirements is not a challenge during exchanges, healthcare systems must implement appropriate HIPAA Business Association (BAA) agreements to enable third-party integration.
4. High integration cost
Another reason healthcare interoperability is challenging is because of the costs associated with the integration process. The traditional integration model is only available to large healthcare organizations. With the newly available and affordable integration models, medium and small organizations have the opportunity to choose an affordable integration strategy. In addition to these technical, financial, and administrative challenges, there are various trust barriers, issues with IT usability, and reporting barriers that limit the success of EPA integration. However, with a strategic approach and technical support, these challenges can be overcome and build a better system for sharing health data.
5. Lack of experience
Implementing EMR interoperability is a major challenge. The software development team must evaluate and assess:
- Framework conditions, 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)
- Cybersecurity and encryption tools
Depending on the solution, the technician may need to reformat and standardize your existing data. Workflow also changes as new third-party tools are added to the platform. As a result, an organization must maintain interoperability architecture on a regular basis. All this means that experience is an important factor in the development of any health software. You need a reliable team with appropriate experience to connect all business and clinical applications with your EHR/EMR system and make data exchange smooth and secure.
Interoperability is the future of EHR and EMR. The interactive platform allows doctors, therapists, nurses, and counselors to access relevant health information and offer 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 health care decision-making, seamless data exchange between systems and organizations ensures greater patient satisfaction.
Do you want to build a highly functional and future-proof EHR/EMR platform that complies with industry standards and local regulations? Healthcare IT Services allows third-party integrations for managing healthcare websites, applications, and software APIs. KPi-tech has a team of experts who offer customized software integrations. Learn more about EHR interoperability in healthcare.
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