Interoperability key to boosting care
Picture a bridge with two ends reaching out to connect but being off by a foot or more. That's a place healthcare IT doesn't want to be, said two presenters at an education session on Tuesday.
"I'm sure that that bridge was built to very precise standards," said one of the presenters, Michael H. Nusbaum, of an image of just such a bridge he showed the session audience.
Nusbaum, a management consultant, and Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of informatics for HIMSS, teamed up during Tuesday's session to explain that interoperability is how health IT can avoid such a disaster.
Interoperability, for example, is key to achieving information exchange, which in turn is critical to enhancing the ability to automate interaction with external partners, thereby decreasing cost. It also reduces manual intervention, increasing productivity and streamlining operations – and improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery.
And ultimately, it improves patient outcomes and population health.
"Interoperability is essential to quality care," Sensmeier said. "If you don't get the information out there in the right place, the care is going to be absolutely compromised. It has to be accurate and available."
Interoperability facilitates communication among patients and providers, she said. Clinical information at the point-of-care maximizes safety, quality, efficiency. Information collected and aggregated across populations can inform decision-making and improve quality outcomes. An interoperable EHR can support patient education. And interoperability reduces duplication, increases clinical awareness and improves care coordination.
To safeguard the integrity of interoperability and all that depends upon it, an independent testing and certification program based upon rigorous process and documentation protocols is key, Nusbaum told the audience. "Vendors can certainly claim 'capability,'" he said, "but can purchasers be assured that interoperability is baked into a specific product available for purchase?"