Katya Samardina

Slow and Steady: The Journey Toward Interoperability

Monitor interfaces

In this world of instant communication and seemingly endless amounts of disruptive apps, it may seem like health information technology (HIT) has languished. However, there has been a monumental shift in the HIT market, and it’s only just beginning.

Less than a decade ago, nine out of ten clinicians in the U.S. used paper-based patient records. Now it’s estimated that by the end of the year, 90 percent will be using electronic health records (EHRs). Even though true HIT interoperability is still on the horizon, there has already been huge strides in the development, and use, of HIT in America—and thanks to a couple of key points, the future looks even brighter.

While there has been a lot of discussion regarding interoperability as the future of healthcare, there are still a number of significant roadblocks for true interoperability. However, these types of roadblocks are a natural part of any change, especially with significant digital transformation, and there are a number of strong market indicators that show HIT is heading in the right direction, including:

  • Heavy investment. Since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was implemented in 2009, the federal government has invested heavily in HIT adoption. Their initial focus was on the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) and foundational work to expand health information exchanges. The success of these efforts has resulted in the accelerated maturation of the HIT market and the widespread use of HIT and information exchanges.
  • Ongoing interest within healthcare. According to the International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, 18 percent of medical errors that resulted in an adverse drug event was due to the lack of availability of patient records. Interoperability allows a patient’s medical records to accompany them as they move throughout the healthcare system—helping to mitigate these issues. A recent survey, conducted by Health IT News, of almost 100 healthcare executives revealed that 60 percent believed their main priority with their HIT systems was to “improve interoperability.”
  • Development outside the healthcare market. Interoperability has advanced dramatically within the commercial market—most notably with the sharing of data through web services. The number of businesses utilizing—and publishing—open APIs has grown exponentially in recent years, which has led to previously disparate parts of the web becoming increasingly integrated. It is now a standard practice for businesses to use APIs that connect their websites to Facebook and Twitter accounts or embed Google maps within their “contact” webpages to show their location. The consumer market has embraced interoperability wholeheartedly—which is a strong indicator that the uptake will continue to grow within healthcare.

It may seem like these developments are taking longer than expected—especially when the society has become so expectant of instant changes—but a large number of vendors are pushing toward this future of seamless inter-system communication, so the revolution in healthcare is coming. It’s just taking a while.

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