Creators of healthcare technology solutions that aim to solve complex market issues — whether for providers, health information exchanges, public health, accountable care organizations, or other health tech vendors — face a tall order. While your product may address a specific pain point, such as revenue cycle management, patient engagement, or analytics through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) — your solutions must also help solve two major challenges that many healthcare organizations are facing: clinical and IT staffing shortages and financial strain.
To address these challenges, consider how your solutions interoperate with other applications and systems within your own ecosystems and those of your customers to support streamlined, secure, scalable, and quality data exchange, ensuring your customers have access to data that is reliable, accurate, and actionable.
When you get this right, your solutions help customers save time and resources because they have access to the data they need when they need it to make more informed decisions. In addition, your team saves time while providing that value.
Key to any interoperability strategy is establishing and maintaining a strong foundation of quality data. Prioritizing data integration and data enrichment within your overall interoperability strategy can help differentiate your solutions from the competition and enhance the experience for your customers, as well as your customers’ customers.
Yet the devil is in the details. What is interoperability? What roadblocks impede interoperability? What’s required to create a strategy for interoperability that is built on a strong data foundation? This article addresses these questions and offers considerations to evaluate as you develop innovative solutions that deliver short- and long-term value to customers.
What is interoperability?
Interoperability in healthcare means that patients can move across healthcare settings and their data follows them. Care teams using an interoperable system will have the right data in their hands at the right time to efficiently provide optimal outcomes.
This is complex for many reasons. Oftentimes conversations about interoperability are limited to integration — accessing and exchanging data. Access is only part of the equation. Data must also be actionable by the systems and people accessing it. This requires a data foundation that includes identity data and terminology management.
Identity data involves understanding who you're talking about — which patients and providers are related to the data you’re exchanging. Inaccurate patient identification and duplicate medical records are a major challenge for healthcare organizations because they introduce inefficiencies, billing errors, data capacity issues, and clinical or legal risk.
Terminology management involves knowing what you're talking about. To achieve a high level of interoperability, high-quality clinical information, and accurate analytics, all data sent by or received into a healthcare ecosystem should be mapped to a recognized standard.
What are the roadblocks to interoperability?
Product leaders who try to architect for interoperability themselves quickly realize that homegrown solutions won’t cut it for long-term success.
Among the primary challenges that product leaders face are data volume, data standards, and data sources. It’s likely your product will need to exchange data with provider EHRs, which is a good starting point but if it’s the only system you’re considering integrating with, you will need to broaden your scope. More data sources and workflows exist outside of EHRs.
What’s more, healthcare ecosystems are notoriously idiosyncratic. Many healthcare organizations rely on more than one EHR, not to mention a myriad of other systems — including older, legacy applications and newer ones — that your solution will have to exchange data with. As your data sources multiply, so will the risk of introducing duplicate or inaccurate data.
Data privacy and security also create challenges for product leaders. As you and your customers roll out new capabilities, processes, and workflows, the risk for cybersecurity breaches is high. Your interoperability strategy must take into consideration how you’ll minimize vulnerability to cybersecurity attacks and ensure customer security.
These are only a few of the challenges product leaders face when it comes to interoperability. Other considerations include developing and testing integrations, maintaining your environment, adapting to new use cases, and scaling deployments as you grow. Creating interoperable solutions on your own requires your team to spend development cycles solving for data integration and data quality challenges and can potentially derail product development timelines.
Overcoming roadblocks to interoperability
Do-it-yourself is rarely the right choice for product leaders. While interoperability is complex, you don’t have to navigate it alone. By partnering with interoperability experts, you can shift your focus from integrating and deciphering the meaning of your data, to developing your product roadmap and onboarding customers faster.
As you think through what you need in a partner to help you achieve your interoperability goals, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Access the white paper, 9 questions to ask to create a winning interoperability strategy, to learn what you should consider as you develop a strong interoperability strategy that supports growth and innovation.