Why You Need Interoperability in Your Practice

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Almost every healthcare practice in the US has an EMR, but are their systems interoperable? As we move into MACRA implementation, the government is pushing for connectivity of healthcare computer systems so that data can be shared within a care community. Due to the recent health information exchange (HIE), which is the mobilization of healthcare information electronically across organizations within a region, community or hospital system, the need for interoperability has never been greater. A lack of interoperability in your practice can reduce your practice’s effectiveness and efficiency, and may decrease patient satisfaction.

What is Interoperability?

Interoperability is when different types of software and hardware from various vendors interact effectively and exchange vital information with each other. For healthcare, interoperability is the ability of EMRs in hospitals or health systems to communicate, share critical information and achieve high quality healthcare.

CDA, or Clinical Document Architecture, has helped the field of interoperability immensely. It is an XML-based, electronic standard that has been adopted as part of MIPS/MACRA that is a universal platform that allows for the sharing of data directly from one EMR system to another. The CDA is very extensive and general, since it is the base standard that gives a common architecture, coding, semantic framework, and markup language for creating electronic clinical documentation.  A CDA file is easily interoperable because it’s a standard in the health industry to help providers save time by allowing critical patient data to flow directly from one EMR software program to another.  

The Three Levels of Interoperability

There are three levels of interoperability that a healthcare network can adopt.

Foundational Interoperability: Foundational interoperability is the most basic, and lowest, level of interoperability. According to HIMSSthis level “allows data exchange from one information technology system to be received by another and does not require the ability for the receiving information technology system to interpret the data.” In this level of interoperability, health practices do not have the ability to interpret the data they receive.

Structural Interoperability: This is the intermediate level of interoperability. In this level, the data format adheres to certain standards so that it has the same meaning across systems.

Semantic Interoperability: Semantic interoperability is the top level of interoperability. In this level, the data is not only understood, but two completely different health systems can exchange, interpret, and use data and information effectively between them.

How to Make Your Practice More Interoperable

Many providers complain about a lack of interoperability between EMRs. There’s a few things that you as a provider can do to make your office more interoperable. The following are just some of the strategies that can help:

  • Improve communications inside the office

This can be done in many ways. For example, promoting communication using an established protocol can reduce inefficiencies and mistakes. If you have an EMR, use it to communicate with staff. If you want your staff to follow up and see if this patient needs a future appointment, this can be done easily within the EMR software.

  • Choose tools that are standard-based

Health IT systems that are built on a common set of standards can talk to each other, which as we know is the 3rd and highest level of interoperability. Currently, the government is working to write legislation that mandates standards across EMRs and other healthcare tools. You can help speed along this process by looking for existing standards-based tools and encouraging companies to bring everyone up to speed.

  • Provide training for your staff on health IT tools

Staff training may be one of the most important things you can do. Interoperability can only be achieved when the systems for getting there are used as intended.  Without a properly trained staff, your health IT solutions will never work to their maximum potential.

If you’re looking to make your office more interoperable, with standard-based tools or training for your office, contact 1st Providers Choice online or by phone at 480-782-1116 to receive a free demo of our interoperable product.