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Healthcare’s journey to interoperability: You can lead a horse to water… 

by Sandra LaFon
An EHR Intelligence article1 about Congressional efforts to identify and resolve obstacles to interoperability in healthcare reminded me of that old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

According to EHR Intelligence, it seems that despite receiving “tens of billions of dollars” in incentives to begin implementing electronic health records (EHR), most healthcare organizations have yet to take much more than a sip from the fountain of interoperability — in other words, they're missing the part about making “meaningful use” of EHRs. 

​Achieving interoperability will likely improve patient loyalty, increase referrals and foster an overall more well-rounded patient experience.

So, why the hesitation? It may be due to technical challenges and apprehension over healthcare data privacy and security. Or, it may tie back to a fear of sending patients to competitors through interoperable systems.

While certainly valid concerns, the benefits far outweigh the cons — achieving interoperability will likely improve patient loyalty, increase referrals and foster an overall more well-rounded patient experience. Through empowering your staff and organization to communicate more easily across systems, you will also likely be able to provide better care, save money and increase efficiency in the way you capture, transform and manage information.


What are you waiting for? Your organization can begin preparing to become interoperable now. Here are some tips to get you started:


1. Take a look at your internal technology systems to see where information might be getting lost or mistranslated, and determine steps for filling the information gaps.


2. Are there ways you could be centralizing and streamlining communication between systems? Review your communication systems with this question in mind to increase efficiencies through standardizing and integrating systems.


3. Check in on security measures within your technology to make sure information is being shared across platforms securely.

Start your journey to interoperability 

Ready or not, it’s time to take that next step. What’s keeping you from becoming interoperable? 
While these are just a few steps to get you on your way to interoperability, they can go a long way in preparing you for the future of healthcare. Equip your organization with the tools you need to not just lead the horse to water, but to dive into interoperability head first. 
Sandra Lafon
Sandra LaFon, Regional Technical Analyst, Ricoh USA, Inc. is a senior healthcare IT professional with over 20 years of industry experience serving healthcare IT product vendors, consulting firms, and hospital organizations. A trained PMP and well-versed in Lean Six Sigma and Agile/Scrum principles, LaFon has a broad range of technical and programming expertise, as well as a graduate certificate in project management from Aspen University, and a business information systems degree from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Ca. 
1 Kyle Murphy, Ph.D."Senate Committee Tackles EHR Interoperability, Data Blocking." EHR Intelligence, July 23, 2015. https://ehrintelligence.com/news/senate-committee-tackles-ehr-interoperability-data-blocking%20