two doctors talking in hospital holding papers and a digital tablet

Interoperability is Healthcare’s Tower of Babel

Your systems speak different languages. Here’s how to translate.

Healthcare today is like the lost city of Babylon, and IT systems are the infamous Tower of Babel. Integrated delivery networks and other large health systems rely on collaboration and care coordination to increase efficiency and improve outcomes. Yet many devices are still unable to connect or “talk” to each other. This language barrier results in sluggish workflows and missing information.

You can still streamline communication and improve collaboration, even when your systems don’t connect. Here are four ways to translate your data into better outcomes:

1. Move away from manual data entry: When systems do not connect, nurses often print and re-enter information manually. This takes considerable time, slows down workflows and runs the risk of error. Luckily, you don’t have to invest in a new electronic health record (EHR) to connect all of your disparate locations and networks. Enlist easy-to-implement solutions like intelligent forms. They will automatically populate important health information tied directly to the patient — wherever he or she goes within your system.

For interoperability success, it’s important to normalize and cleanse data. Bonus: Clean data also helps protect against potential hacks.

2. Convert paper into digital information: No matter which technologies you employ, information stored on paper simply does not connect to anyone or anything. Paper is also bulky and difficult to store. And because paper information is less secure than its digital counterparts, it can be mishandled or lost by clinicians. Use an advanced scan and capture solution to integrate important paper forms directly into your EHR.

3. Enable remote access to information: Health systems today provide care to the same patients across multiple locations. Many employ nurses who work remotely. Wherever your healthcare employees are, they need access to data. A sync-and-share solution puts folders and files at your fingertips regardless of your location, while helping to maintain security and compliance.

4. Regularly cleanse your data: For interoperability success, it’s important to normalize and cleanse data. This enables health systems and IDNs to compare similar data when making care decisions, rather than unstructured data that is dissimilar. Bonus: Clean data also helps protect against potential hacks. Many health information attacks are relatively low-risk from the criminal’s perspective, largely because IT cleanliness is not commonplace in healthcare so old data is not disposed of correctly. Keeping your data clean helps mitigate the potential risk.

Interoperability and collaboration are the keys to better care. Your systems may not always speak the same language, but you still have the opportunity to “translate” by better connecting people with data.

One hospital gets to the heart of efficient pharmacy order management.

For a real-world example of streamlined information flow in healthcare, explore how Houston Methodist Hospital eliminated cumbersome data entry from paper forms and created a medication order management and electronic data exchange solution.