What is Interoperability in Healthcare?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Interoperability and Exchange of Health Information

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted in 2009 created a new requirement for healthcare organizations known as the Electronic Health Records (EHR) mandate. The mandate requires that healthcare organizations demonstrate meaningful use of electronic medical records to achieve several objectives in healthcare:

  • Improving the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare and reducing disparities in the same between patient demographics
  • Increasing engagement with patients and their families
  • Improving coordination of healthcare, population health management, and driving public health initiatives
  • Maintaining the privacy and security of clinical patient data

Many healthcare organizations have migrated their patient data, previously kept in paper files and folders, into digitized databases to satisfy the requirements of the EHR mandate. However, a major challenge with the introduction of EHR has been interoperability between EHR database software and the many different types of connected and embedded devices that collect data from patients in the clinical setting.

Interoperability is defined as the ability of different information systems and software communications to exchange data and to use the information that is exchanged for some purpose. In an ideal world, all connected and embedded systems in the healthcare environment would use the same communication protocols and data standards to transmit information to the EHR. This would allow hospitals to automate data capture and give clinicians the widest possible perspective into patient status.

In the real world, however, no interoperability standard has been agreed on for devices that collect healthcare data. Certain devices and applications may interface poorly with EHR applications, making the captured data inaccessible to the physicians and patients that would otherwise benefit from it.

Why is Interoperability Important to HIE?

Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE) allows physicians and other healthcare providers to access and securely share a patient’s electronic medical records when it is appropriate to do so. This capability can increase the timeliness of medical decision-making, along with the safety, quality, and cost of patient care. With HIE, many care providers can update the same EHR for the same patient, leading to records that are more complete and comprehensive.

To understand the importance of data interoperability to HIE, imagine a patient who regularly interacts with five different healthcare providers. In today’s healthcare marketplace, each provider might use a different software application to log and maintain records for the patient. If these applications aren’t programmed to be able to talk to each other –– if they lack interoperability –– EHRs from any single application will not be readable on the others and the patient will miss out on the benefits of collaborative healthcare.

To effectively leverage HIE, physicians require a standardized data format for EHR that should be readable by all applications that deal with electronic health information. This would mean that any physician could use the program of their choice to access and update patient medical records that are received in the standard format.

How Do Health Information Exchanges Work?

There are three types of health information exchanges that are commonly used by physicians and other healthcare providers to exchange clinical patient data.

Directed Exchange is the ability to securely send and receive electronic medical records between healthcare providers when appropriate to support collaborative care.

In a Query-based Exchange, a healthcare provider searches for or requests specific information on a given patient from other health care providers, typically without transmitting the entire medical record.

In the third method, known as Consumer Mediated Exchange, patients collect and control their own medical records and may share it between healthcare providers when it makes sense to provide coordinated care. The data can be aggregated and shared by patients in either physical or digital form.

While Interoperability is less of an issue for the latter two methods of HIE, directed exchanges require interoperability between applications and standardization of the EHR data to effectively transmit clinical data collected from patients.

TigerConnect Supports Clinical Communications with EHR

TigerConnect offers a secure texting application that makes it easy for physicians and other healthcare providers to share clinical data in real-time, including patient EHR. Healthcare organizations that adopt TigerConnect can use the system to send and receive patient status notifications, facilitate patient engagement and two-way interactions, send urgent messages to on-call specialists, transmit images, manage prescriptions and refills and facilitate health information exchanges using the direct exchange method.

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About TigerConnect

TigerConnect is healthcare’s most widely adopted communication platform – uniquely modernizing care collaboration among doctors, nurses, patients, and care teams. TigerConnect is the only solution that combines a consumer-like user experience for text, video, and voice communication with serious security, privacy, and clinical workflow requirements that today’s healthcare organizations demand. TigerConnect accelerates productivity, reduces costs, and improves patient outcomes.

Trusted by more than 6,000 healthcare organizations, TigerConnect maintains 99.99% verifiable uptime and processes more than 10 million messages each day. To learn more about TigerConnect visit www.tigerconnect.com.