BETA
This is a BETA experience. You may opt-out by clicking here

More From Forbes

Edit Story

Why Healthcare Interoperability Shouldn't Force Professionals To Choose Sides

Frank Harvey, Chief Executive Officer for Surescripts.

Are you on team blue bubble or team green bubble?

If you’ve ever been excluded from a text message group chat with your family and friends because you have different phone brands, you know the reference. Consequently, you also know what it’s like to be left out of the conversation.

When a group text includes both blue text messages and green text messages, you might see the formatting of images or videos shrink or become pixelated. This is interoperability. Or, really, it's an example of when interoperability doesn’t work quite the way we expect it should.

Now, instead of competing phone messaging technology, imagine team green bubble is your doctor or health system and team blue bubble is your health plan or pharmacist. These healthcare organizations are exchanging or communicating health information, whether that means changing a prescription or completing a prior authorization for a procedure. In all cases, details matter, and the accuracy of the information shared about someone's health is paramount to protecting patient safety. This is something I've seen firsthand through my company's work providing interoperability solutions for the healthcare space.

While cute animal or baby photos shared in a group text chat with friends and family are important, the lack of true interoperability is relatively inconsequential. But in healthcare, specifically direct patient care, there’s no room for unreadable and otherwise incomplete information. The risk of not having key details or not being able to trust the accuracy of the information exchanged by healthcare providers and organizations has much greater consequences.

The First And Last Miles In Healthcare Interoperability

Remember when patients would bring handwritten paper prescriptions from their doctor’s office to the pharmacy to be filled?

Just over two decades ago, that was the norm. Technology has since become a much more central and trusted part of our lives, and it's become clear that technology can help reduce errors when prescribing. Electronic prescriptions are now widely used, and a number of companies, my own included, offer these services. It was a simple enough concept, but electronic prescriptions changed how care providers and patients shared information and connected prescribers and pharmacists in a new way.

I consider electronic prescriptions some of the first bricks laid on the road to interoperability. Many more bricks have been added since, such as the exchange of patient health information that supports electronic prior authorization for medications and direct messages that allow pharmacists and doctors to communicate without sending a fax or making a phone call. Interoperability is what connects and powers billions of exchanges of patient clinical and benefit information. In a national progress report by my company, "Tracking the Impact of Health Intelligence Sharing Across the United States," we found that of the healthcare professionals and provider organizations we helped connect in 2023, there were nearly 24 billion exchanges.

In the past decade, there’s been a much stronger, industry-wide push to build the last mile to genuine interoperability. Micky Tripathi, national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said at a forum hosted by my company, “Imagine a world where your medical records are just where they need to be when you show up with the provider and you don't have to do any work. When people aren't thinking about it, that is when we know we have succeeded.”

In December 2023, the HHS announced that the "nationwide health data exchange governed by the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement," known as TEFCA, is operational. TEFCA and the Qualified Health Information Networks, or QHIN. are a set of common expectations and rules that allow users, like a doctor, hospital or health plan, in different networks to share basic clinical information securely.

Interoperability: Why More Progress Is Needed

Despite progress made, there’s more work needed to ensure healthcare professionals and organizations can safely communicate, share clinical intelligence and work collaboratively for the patients in their care. This is especially important as patients face complex health challenges. More than a quarter of U.S. adults have multiple common chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, and by 2040, people age 65 and older are expected to make up nearly 22% of the U.S. population.

Combined with clinician burnout and care provider shortages, healthcare, especially primary care, is becoming less accessible. One estimate shows that by 2034, the U.S. will face a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians. Furthermore, 80% of physicians said the staffing crisis was the No. 1 issue impacting their organization, according to another survey.

Healthcare organizations can deliberately leverage interoperability to enhance workflow efficiency for clinicians and better integrate all members of evolving patient care teams—including pharmacists, care managers and others working within innovative care models—to improve equitable access to care for patients no matter where they live.

As we continue innovating and advancing technology that supports interoperability, developers of interoperability solutions must look outside their own organizations to gauge the impact on the broader healthcare industry. We need to be asking ourselves: Is this tool or solution able to support safe, informed and less costly care for patients? Will it allow healthcare to work in a simplified and collaborative way?

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter whether you are team green, blue, red or yellow. Ensuring the efficient, trusted and impactful exchange of patient clinical information among physicians, pharmacists, health plans and healthcare organizations is essential and the team we can all feel proud to play for. The future of healthcare relies on the kind of interoperability that allows team colors to fade into the background and the focus to return to patients—the way it should be.


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


Follow me on LinkedInCheck out my website
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news