If you’ve been responsible for healthcare IT for any period of time, you know federal regulators are continuously ramping up pressure on the industry to enableseamless exchange of patient data among all organizations across the continuum of care. You also know that over the years, both the government and private entities have rolled out a number of initiatives designed to solve the interoperability problem.
In this post, we’re going to summarize the most prominent of these intended solutions, explain why they’ve fallen short of their objective, and then introduce you to a true and immediate solution for your organization to achieve interoperability.
The Wide Range of Interoperability Initiatives —and Why None Have Solved the Problem
If the healthcare industry hasn’t yet reached full data interoperability, it certainly has not been for lack of effort. Consider the wide range of solutions that both the industry itself and its regulators have introduced.
On the regulatory side, the government has created monetary incentives to steer health organizations toward adopting interoperability solutions. You can find one example of this in the HITECH Act of 2009, which offered benefits including payments from the government to health organizations that adopted EHR technology.
The challenge is that EHR systems are proprietary, use their own unique approach to interpreting and categorizing data, and in most cases don’t communicate seamlessly with other systems.
In other words, financial incentivesalone might not be enough to pave the path to interoperability from provider to provider across the continuum of care.
Both the government and industry member organizations —most notably Health Level Seven International (HL7) —have worked to develop data standards that will make the communication and interpretation of patient data easier across the healthcare ecosystem. HL7’s newly released Fast Health Interop Resources (FHIR) version 4 is the most widely anticipated of these standards.
But there are also challenges to the data-standardization approach. One challenge is that for them to help the industry achieve interoperability, these standards require implementation by the various makers of EHR platforms and other digital healthcare apps. Because each of these solutions is proprietary, each provider will have to make its own determination about when and where it makes business sense for it to use a data standard like FHIR 4.
One trend the industry has struggled with so far is that most EHR systems don’t allow users two-way data transmission using FHIR. Theylimit healthcare organizations to one-way, read-only access to FHIR-based data, which obviously limits the interoperability of this standard.
Finally, the healthcare industry has been developing new tools to increase data interoperability. Buteach of these new technological solutions brings its own challenges and shortcomings.
A point-to-point solution, for example, can help increase interoperability to varying degrees. But as its name suggests, this type of digital tool is limited: It can help a health organization connect one specific solution to another specific solution. It can’t give that organization a seamless digital environment where it can receive, process, and share all PHI with other organizations from any digital application.
APIs can also help a health organization increase its data interoperability. Similar to a point solution, an API can serve as a bridge connecting two disparate digital apps and allowing for an exchange of data where a direct attempt to transmit that data between these apps might fail. But also like a point solution, an API can tie together only certain specific solutions —not an organization’s entire data environment. Complicating matters further, APIs often require a lot of custom code, time for development, and money to implement and oversee.
Consensus: Your Interoperability Solution
The healthcare industry as a whole hasn’t yet been able to establish a single solution for seamless data exchange. But youcan achieve interoperability, for your ownorganization, and you can do so immediately. That’s the good news.
The even better news: You can achieve all of this without having to do any of the costly, time-consuming work that all of these other “solutions”require.You won’t need to create any custom code, build any new processes to enable your systems to read FHIR 4 or other data standards, or implement any point solutionsto connect your disparate systems.
All you need is Consensus, a 360-degree interoperability platform from j2 Global, the company behind the healthcare industry’s most widely trusted cloud faxing platform and the first to achieve HITRUST CSF certification.
Consensus is the healthcare industry’s first truly comprehensive interoperability system, withstreamlined workflows in an easy-to-use platform that gives your staffsingle-screenaccessto:
- Digital cloud faxing —as easy as sending and receiving email —without the need for paper, fax lines, or on-prem fax hardware.
- Direct Secure Messaging over a secure network.
- Patient queries via CommonWell and CareQuality.
- Connectivity access to referral networks, ACOs, community and state exchanges, and HIEs across the country.
- Ability to send, receive, find, and use any patient-related data: C-CDA, unstructured data, PDFs, images, and more. Absorb any content directly into the patient record.
- Visibility into all of the data-exchange activity happening across your organization, including fax traffic. Make informed decisions and transition to more electronic forms of exchange, starting with your highest-volume fax workflows.
- HIPAA-compliant data exchange for all of your inbound and outbound health data exchanges through the platform.
Bottom line:Don’t wait for the rest of the industry to solve the interoperability challenge. Solve it for your own organization —easily, cost-effectively, and immediately —with Consensus.Learn more about what Consensus can do for your organization.Paul Clark