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Interoperability is more

Interoperability is more than just your electronic health records

by ​​Sandra LaFon
The buzz about interoperability in healthcare has reached a fever pitch since the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released its highly anticipated draft roadmap to interoperability1.

Much of the excitement focuses on electronic health record systems (EHRs), and their potential to maximize the promise of interoperability. But as Joyce Sensmeier, RN, HIMSS vice president of informatics, notes in Healthcare IT News2, “EHRs are just part of the story.”

Identify where your information comes from, where it’s intended to go and, most importantly, how well it makes that journey so you can easily capture, access and share data.

“Over the last couple years… we focused on the technical aspect of interoperability, and while of course that’s an important part, I think we’ve missed out on thinking about the providers, the individual clinicians as well as the organizations,” Sensmeier says.

To this point, one of the most important things your organization can do now—while interoperability is still gearing up for prime time—is to look at how well your clinicians, patients and technologies are working together.

For example, it’s not uncommon for clinicians to use ordinary cameras—such as digital SLR and even phone cameras—to capture various dermatological and other pathologies. They then download the images to their computers before printing and either scanning or sending them to the HIM department to be scanned for storage in the EHR and/or shared with other providers. Is this really the most efficient and practical workflow to digitize vital healthcare images? It begs the question of how interoperability could streamline the digitization of images with such capabilities as sending images directly to EHR repositories from your devices, including scanners via scan-to-cloud, scan-to-email or scan-to another networked repository.

Release of information documentation is another instance in healthcare workflows that could be streamlined with interoperability. Patients often need their information sent to other providers, yet many clinicians must use several different systems to access that documentation, print it, fax it, and then shred it when they’re finished. Intoperability would, however, help the information silos work seamlessly together to streamline the workflow including enforcing policies to shred private information.

To put it mildly, clunky workflows won’t play well as interoperability becomes a necessary part of our lives. And no matter how advanced your EHR, some aspect of patient care inevitably risks being overlooked and left behind.
You might think you have a decent information management system in place. However, to avoid costly oversights and identify hidden clogs within your workflow, it may be worth performing a comprehensive process assessment to identify where your information comes from, where it’s intended to go and, most importantly, how well it makes that journey so you can easily capture, access and share data.

There’s no doubt that a lot of confusion still exists around interoperability, and it will take time for things to shake out. In the meantime, your healthcare organization can use this time as an opportunity to examine your workflows with an eye toward improving operations and building confidence for the inevitable future of interoperability.

Prepare for the future of healthcare interoperability with a comprehensive process assessment.

Are you ready to enhance your organization’s overall ability to “play well with others” once the interoperability game is in full swing?
Sandra Lafon
Sandra LaFon, Regional Technical Analyst for 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 "Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A shared nationwide interoperability roadmap (v1.0)." The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 2015. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/nationwide-interoperability-roadmap-draft-version-1.0.pdf.