Today, healthcare consumers want centralized management and simplified access to their medical and related financial information. To provide patients with easy access to their information, healthcare providers need to achieve true interoperability, which refers to the ability of two or more computer systems to exchange, communicate and make use of information.
Creating a unified environment for health data is a top priority for healthcare organizations. When healthcare providers rely on manual document processes, health information management becomes complex and time-consuming. However, many barriers are preventing healthcare providers from achieving interoperability.
Healthcare organizations need to recognize the primary challenges barring seamless and secure health information exchange (HIE). With clear insights into the main barriers, healthcare organizations can take proactive measures to mitigate these challenges to improve patient experiences and enhance information exchange.
Top 3 Barriers of Healthcare Interoperability
Several challenges need to be addressed before healthcare organizations can achieve true interoperability. Once these challenges are remedied, healthcare providers can continue to move toward their ultimate goal of improving HIE and patient experience.
1. Limited Skills and Resources
Budgetary restrictions pose a significant barrier to achieving seamless health information exchange. Smaller healthcare facilities may lack the financial resources needed to build an interoperable system. Interoperability requires initial investments in technical resources including updated document management systems (DMS) and personnel training support.
Investing in software development training is crucial to ensure usability. If a doctor doesn't know how to navigate a software’s interface, how can they be expected to leverage the tool in a meaningful way, let alone streamline document processes?
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the average doctor spends more than 16 minutes using their electronic health record (EHR) system per patient encounter. As this statistic reveals, the technology designed to improve data accessibility and patient care actually contributes and adds to personnel workload. To ensure the lack of training doesn’t impede information exchange, stakeholders will need to invest in upskilling their personnel which takes time and dedicated resources.
2. Numerous Software Systems with Varying Data Standards
As previously mentioned, the usability of individual systems and the lack of training for these systems are major hurdles to seamless information exchange. To further compound this issue, healthcare providers may use five or even ten different software systems during the course of an average workday, from EHR to patient monitoring systems.
Today, most healthcare organizations have adopted EHR technology. A decade ago, EHR adoption in hospitals hovered around 73%. Now, roughly 98% of hospitals are using a government-certified EHR. While the increased adoption is a step toward achieving interoperability, it also reveals a new challenge. There are hundreds of EHR systems on the market today, each with its own unique set of technical specifications.
Different systems use different data formats, specifications, and semantics, further fragmenting patient information and complicating health information exchange. Due to the varying data standards, former attempts to promote interoperability have been ineffective. For example, electronic medical records (EMRs) - a primary source of healthcare data - produce disparate and non-standardized data, making it difficult to access, share and analyze patient information across systems.
To address this issue, stakeholders should invest in a single comprehensive content management system (CMS). The right CMS will automate workflows, minimize document errors, and, most importantly, collect, store, and deliver information in a way that is private, secure, and follows all industry and HIPAA protocols.
3. Outdated Legacy Systems
Healthcare facilities with outdated legacy systems have the multi-pronged challenge of simultaneously modernizing their IT infrastructure while also maintaining interoperability requirements to remain compliant. Connecting legacy systems to the interoperable health systems needed to support patient data exchange can lead to structural changes to existing data, further complicating information sharing and integration.
Improve Patient Experience and Data Exchange with Intelligent Information Management Services
While reaching unobstructed interoperability in the near future may seem like a lofty goal, there are multiple ways healthcare organizations can actively address current challenges to accelerate digital transformation and enhance their data-sharing capabilities.
Healthcare facilities should partner with trusted intelligent information management specialists to implement a document management system tailored to their healthcare organization. Technologies like content management systems are positioned to help healthcare providers digitize patient care and simplify data exchange, putting true interoperability within reach.