What is Interoperability and How Can It Impact Your Business?

Employee Health and Interoperability

You may have given little thought to your business’s healthcare interoperability. Exceptions might include small business operating as an active part of the healthcare system such as a technology startup. But achieving true healthcare interoperability profoundly impacts all businesses with one or thousands of employees.

Let’s start with a simple definition of interoperability. According to HIMSS, interoperability describes how well systems and devices exchange and interpret shared data. So all your business’s systems need be able to exchange and present data in a way every user can understand.

The Healthcare Interoperability/ Business Connection

Interoperability requires more than communication between different electronic health records systems and hospitals. You need to make every person’s current and past health data accessible. Meanwhile records must kept secure, understandable understood, and constantly updated single source of truth.

Record must remain shareable with other organizations. And businesses must share and have interactive access to data in real time to improve health outcomes. True interoperability also brings major benefits to business. These benefits appear in the form of cost and productivity improvements.

Financial and operational good health of a small business depends on the physical and mental health of its people. So small businesses pay for poor healthcare one way or another. And this happens regardless of whether they provide health insurance to their employees.

Here’s How Interoperability Costs Your Business

The cost to business plays out in many ways. And these include:

  • Physical, emotional, and financial stress regarding health, which makes employees less productive
  • Lost time from work because of health diagnosis, treatment, recuperation issues
  • Lost time from work for health care administrative issues with payers, providers and ancillary health organizations when personal health information is incorrect or incomplete

Seventy percent of workers stress about their health, jobs and finances. And over 20 percent spend at least five hours each week at work caught up in stress. This data comes from a Colonial Life study. And the result amounts to billions in losses from these millions of full-time employees’ average hourly wage. The study used data  from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Changing the dynamic has major implications for small business in terms of workforce productivity, focus, and the bottom line. True interoperability becomes the key to unlocking many other doors for employee health and productivity. Without getting too far into the weeds, we’ll look at how it can work.

How Interoperability Changes Healthcare and Business

While the goal of interoperability is to improve patient health outcomes, a major byproduct for businesses is it minimizes the direct productivity and financial losses associated with employee health. It does this by enabling bi-directional communication between all connected systems and entities affecting a person’s health. It also makes the person an active part of their own health data through secure access.

The approach also means allowing users to find, understand and act on clinical, administrative and financial health information when they need it. This interoperability will enable patients to:

  • Conduct healthcare interactions like appointment setting bill paying, test result review and digital physician consult through web-based platforms at their convenience
  • Monitor and update healthcare record changes
  • Fulfill e-prescribing and price transparency comparison decisions in real time with physician monitoring based on budget and health condition
  • Integrate wearable healthcare device and telemedicine data into real-time care across providers and payers

How to Improve Interoperability

The combination of APIs and FHIR protocols will drive interoperability in healthcare. APIs are modern web application programmer interface (API) technology while FHIR stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. Web APIs enable secure communication between health information systems like EHRs via the internet. FHIR (pronounced “fire”), is the proposed common standard of choice for APIs developed by the  Health Level Seven International (HL7) health-care standards organization.

FHIR APIs makes for easy health data communication across disparate systems regardless of the operating system or software in use. As this standard reaches universal acceptance and adherence, it will enable:

  • Health systems and third-party developers to create technology and apps that work across existing health records and systems
  • Fast and simple provider reconciliation of health data from other trusted health care organizations
  • Referral management between connected specialists so relevant patient data can be transmitted, tracked and confirmed across the referral cycle
  • Broad population healthcare changes through the secure and authorized data exchange via electronic Health Information Exchanges (HIE)

Employee Health and Interoperability

True interoperability will make it possible for there to be a consistent standard of language in healthcare data communication across the entire healthcare continuum. This simplifies and removes the errors of communication across settings between care providers, payers and the wider healthcare marketplace. The result is a dramatic change in healthcare outcomes in a proactive rather than a reactive way that saves money and lives while increasing productivity

Achieving true interoperability is just one of the biggest trends in healthcare unfolding today and on the horizon. As we move towards true interoperability, it has emerged as a key component of healthcare transformation that will impact people, populations, and businesses in countless ways.

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Tom Demers Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. Learn more about Tom by following him on Twitter @TomDemers or find him on Google Plus.

One Reaction
  1. If it makes things more efficient in healthcare, then it’s better I guess.