5 Reasons Why Interoperability in Healthcare is Critical

In the past decade, the healthcare sector has seen a massive IT boom.  The basic underlying reason for this is the sharp increase in the volume of medical data being gleaned from each patient as well as the need for making this data available across the board in order to provide seamless medical care to patients.  With the steady influx of information systems that assist healthcare workers, a new challenge has arisen – making patient data available whenever and wherever it is needed. There are quite a few independent systems that store different pieces of critical patient data that come from various sources. To provide efficient and effective care to patients it is important that these varied systems communicate with each other smoothly.

Imagine a telephone network from a few decades ago.  Telephones were connected to a central exchange and each time a party wanted to talk to another, all they had to do was pick up their phone and dial the other party’s number.  Through a complex web of connections, two parties could effectively speak and give and take necessary information. This is exactly what is needed when it comes to healthcare systems too.  Each system should be able to pass on the information it has as well as request information from others as and when needed. In technical terms, this is referred to as Interoperability.

Here are some reasons why Interoperability has become absolutely necessary in today’s day and age:

  1. Quick and Easy Access to Patient Information – It is quite usual for patients to refer to multiple physicians during the course of an illness.  Each physician office or hospital a patient visits, logs in a different piece of vital patient information based on the labs that they might run for the patient or the diagnosis that they make.  In order to get a birds-eye view of the patient’s medical history to see the complete picture, it is important for each of the unique systems to be able to give and take data.

  2. Preventing Manual Errors – When data is scattered across heterogeneous systems, the possibility of manual error increases when someone tries to stitch these pieces together.  By having interoperable healthcare systems, the probability of manual error is decreased to a minuscule amount.

  3. Bringing Down National Healthcare Costs – The redundancy of lab tests and diagnosis that occurs due to the lack of information flow leads to a pretty large increase in healthcare costs.  It is thus essential to avoid these redundancies by ensuring that data is available across systems.  It has been proven that the interoperability of healthcare systems has the ability to save 77.8 billion dollars per year in the United States of America [3].

  4. Catching Disease Outbreaks at an Early Stage – In order to be able to detect and curb a potential outbreak, it is important for all the surveillance systems to be able to share data.  By pooling all of the data collected by various systems, it becomes easier for the data analytics teams to process it and predict an outbreak of infectious diseases.  A good example of this is a thee-IDSR system that has been put in place in Rwanda by the USAID team [4].

  5. Increasing the Efficiency of Healthcare Providers – By cutting out redundancies and eliminating excessive paperwork, a robustly interconnected healthcare system can help improve the quality of service delivered by the physicians to the patients.

By integrating our healthcare systems, we would not only improve the patient experience but also offload some of the redundant administrative tasks performed by physicians.  This will allow our doctors to concentrate on what they are best at – providing top of the line medical service to those who are in need and most importantly- Saving Lives!

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