What does interoperability mean and what role does it play in modern healthcare? HiMMS, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, defines interoperability as “the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.”* This exchanged data can be shared across different healthcare systems and services including labs, hospitals and pharmacies, patients and providers.
When we think about interoperability, the first thing that comes to mind is data information exchange and how that data can - or cannot - work functionally across systems. To demonstrate, let’s say we have a printer with three distinct functions. One is responsible for printing, another for scanning and the last, copying. Each function has a different job but all of them work together on one machine. They need to communicate with one another to accomplish the goal of the user. To apply this simple concept to healthcare, imagine a major hospital becoming a large health system by purchasing a number of smaller hospitals. Each of these smaller institutions are now part of the new health system but have, until now, operated independently, with different people, processes, and EMRs. In this case, interoperability is imperative. By having the proper technology in place, each hospital can operate successfully on its own and as part of its new, larger system without the painful and expensive changes generally associated with this process.
How is this previously inconceivable interop possible, one might ask? Enter software. Think of our Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as translating tunnels that seamlessly connect the disparate systems that exist within this newly formed hospital system. These connections allow data to flow from one silo to another, and back again, exchanging data and other important system needs to power a positive experience for patients, providers and hospital administrators.
Similarly, we can look at our Identity Management Solution. These API endpoints allow for data from multiple sources to be identified, matched, proven and stored in multiple target Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPIs). This allows providers to pinpoint and identify a patient who may already be in one or more systems and access a single record for them. Similarly, the PokitDok Scheduling Solution powers the ability to keep provider schedules up-to-date in real-time, across multiple EMRs. Patients can seamlessly access provider schedules that may live in different places and book appointments online with ease.
These solutions demonstrate the nimbleness and interoperable core that is native to our software, along with the ability to power a more fluid healthcare transaction experience. If we’re able to break down the data silos via modern technology and then release that data back to our customers, we are able to create the business intelligence required to drive the cost of healthcare down and make the experience better for everyone.
Defining interoperability allows us to visualize how silo’d healthcare is - and how much potential lies in connecting the dots. If the pieces of this complex system can function together to help providers get the information they need to give patients the best care, while hospitals, payers and their associated operations and revenue cycles are set up for success, imagine the possibilities.
*HiMSS Dictionary of Healthcare Information Technology Terms, Acronyms and Organizations, 2nd Edition, 2010, Appendix B, p190, original source: Wikipedia