You may have given little thought to employee health and interoperability for your small business. Exceptions to this rule might include small businesses operating as an active part of the healthcare system, such as in the case of a technology startup. However, achieving true healthcare interoperability profoundly impacts all businesses with one or thousands of employees.
What is Interoperability?
Let’s start with a simple definition of interoperability. According to HIMSS, interoperability describes how well systems and devices exchange and interpret shared data. In light of this, all your enterprise’s systems need to be able to exchange and present data in a way every user can understand.
Here’s more about interoperability and why it’s important:
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 as a single source of truth.
Small Business Deals
Additionally, health records must remain shareable with other organizations. Moreover, 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.
The 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, including:
- Physical, emotional, and financial stress regarding health 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. 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 businesses 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 consultation 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 devices and telemedicine data into real-time care across providers and payers
How to Improve Interoperability
Interoperability is pivotal in ensuring seamless communication and data sharing among different health information systems. With the integration of APIs and the FHIR protocol, the healthcare sector can enhance interoperability. Here’s a breakdown:
- Understanding APIs and FHIR:
- APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces): These are modern web tools that allow different software applications to communicate with each other. In the context of healthcare, APIs enable secure data exchange between diverse health information systems over the Internet.
- FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): Developed by the Health Level Seven International (HL7) healthcare standards organization, FHIR (pronounced “fire”) provides a standardized method for health data communication across varied systems, irrespective of their software or operating system.
- Benefits of FHIR APIs for Interoperability:
- Universal Technology Integration:
- Allows health systems and third-party developers to design technology and applications that are compatible across various health records and systems.
- Efficient Data Reconciliation:
- Enables providers to quickly and seamlessly reconcile health data from other trusted healthcare entities.
- Referral Management Enhancement:
- Facilitates the management of referrals between specialists, ensuring that relevant patient data is transferred, monitored, and verified throughout the referral process.
- Promotion of Population Health:
- Fosters broad population healthcare improvements through the secure and authorized exchange of data via electronic Health Information Exchanges (HIE).
- Universal Technology Integration:
As the FHIR standard gains widespread acceptance and adherence, its potential to improve interoperability becomes even more significant, setting the stage for a more connected and efficient healthcare landscape.
Table: How to Improve Interoperability
Steps for improving interoperability at a glance:
|Understanding APIs and FHIR|
|APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces)||Modern web tools for software communication; Enable secure data exchange in healthcare over the Internet.|
|FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources)||Standardized method for health data communication across varied systems; Developed by the HL7 healthcare standards organization.|
|Benefits of FHIR APIs for Interoperability|
|Universal Technology Integration|
|Efficient Data Reconciliation|
|Referral Management Enhancement|
|Promotion of Population Health|
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.