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Readers Write: Driving Interoperability by Putting People at the Center of Health Technology

October 27, 2014 Readers Write 3 Comments

Driving Interoperability by Putting People at the Center of Health Technology
By Joseph Frassica, MD


During a recent earthquake in Charlottesville, VA, people heard the news of the earthquake long before they actually felt the tremors. In healthcare, even getting information to travel across departments in a hospital, or from a hospital to a primary care physician, can sometimes be challenging.

Many healthcare organizations present “interoperability” as the silver bullet that will resolve an organization’s data problems. But how can the industry implement effective, interoperable solutions that allow clinicians to get the information when they need it most, and no matter where they are?

I see three key steps the healthcare industry must take in order for information to travel securely and seamlessly to improve interoperability:

  1. Embrace collaboration. As a first step, the healthcare industry – including hospitals, specialists, practice groups, vendors, home health agencies, and so on – needs to work together to provide the best possible care for patients. For too long, we kept our blinders on and treated patients when they entered into the hospital domain. Instead, the industry needs to change its mindset to think of the patients’ journey throughout the health continuum and work with other caregivers to make that process seamless. Accountable care models are already helping usher in this important change.
  2. Encourage openness. Vendors of all types and sizes must work toward openness and subscribe to open standards. Vendor-agnostic and flexible technologies allow critical patient information to travel faster and get where it’s needed. By embracing open standards wholeheartedly, the industry can begin to lay the foundation necessary to drive innovation in healthcare technology and in patient care. Open standards can enable providers to share EMRs securely and can also provide greater access and insights.
  3. Think beyond the EHR. Hospitals and health systems have made big investments in getting their EHRs up and running, and the technology is important for modernizing health care. But EHRs are not the be-all and end-all of patient data. They barely scratch the surface. To improve population health, healthcare organizations need to think beyond data collection and more about how this data can be used to improve patient outcomes across the health continuum. Healthcare systems need to think about how this data can be analyzed to present a more comprehensive, complete, and integrated picture of a patient and their medical history. Providers can then begin to use this data for predictive analytics, which will enable them to identify and manage trends across a population. By analyzing this data, physicians can make more confident diagnoses and develop preemptive treatment plans.

As healthcare becomes more and more connected, the amount of data and information entering the healthcare picture will only increase, and will become even more critical to realize the promise of interoperability as time goes on. By taking steady steps toward interoperability, the healthcare industry can fully liberate and share data seamlessly, giving physicians the quality insights they need to predict, prevent, and treat disease with better results.

Joseph Frassica, MD is CMIO/CTO, Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions, of Philips Healthcare.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Some great points by Dr. Frassica! TPD faced some of the same issues that we have with EHRs today while working on PACS design in the late 1990’s. DICOM versions back then were all different depending on which company you bought your PACS from and tried to get it to work with existing systems. Each vendor added Private Attributes to their version and none could completely talk to each other. We as developers said this has to change so we designed the first Native DICOM system in 1999 for Cardiology. The first Native DICOM PACS in Cardiology was installed at The Cleveland Clinic in late 1999! Now, we need to get everyone in the EHR World to work together to create an OPEN EHR Standard for inclusion in every EHR design! TPD!

  2. This points to the need for what I label a patient “data custodian”, an entity contracted with the patient to store and manage PHI on their behalf. By storing ALL aspects of a patient’s health and providing privacy levels dictated by the patient, we can build an infrastructure that promotes the features talked about.

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