Author:
Denis Whelan

Healthcare Interoperability, more than EHR to EHR

Healthcare interoperability is a complex web involving systems, compliance, and processes that connect payers, providers, pharmacies, government agencies and of course patients. Understanding the empathetic perspective of those working within this intricate system sheds light on the challenges and opportunities for improvement.

healthcare interoperability

In a recent conversation during my healthcare interoperability journey, I had the privilege of speaking with Allison, an administrator at a mid-sized regional hospital in the cardiology department. Allison’s daily workload paints a vivid picture of the multifaceted responsibilities she manages—patient care, doctor scheduling, communications, intake forms, surgical bookings, follow-ups, insurance claims, prior authorizations, billing coordination, and managing electronic health records (EHRs), all while craving a much-needed lunch break.

Allison shared with me one of her most dreaded moments—the familiar “hmm” sound of the fax machine. This sound signals a wave of incoming work, often comprising reams of paper documents. Despite advancements like cloud fax solutions such as Documo, physical fax machines remain prevalent in healthcare. Research indicates that 30% of fax communication still occurs via physical machines, with fax accounting for a staggering 75% of all healthcare communications. Data exchange and data sharing are critical components of interoperability, highlighting the importance of standardized formats and consent mechanisms to facilitate the seamless flow of electronic health information and healthcare data.

During her brief respite, Allison must sift through stacks of faxes, including a surprising 30% that are unrelated menus from local restaurants. Amidst these, critical documents demanding immediate attention, such as those related to heart transplants or emergency surgeries, must be swiftly identified. Allison’s task then involves manually extracting data, entering it into the EHR system, attaching documents to patient records, and finally, disposing of the physical documents. Meanwhile, her core responsibilities—managing schedules, patient intake, revenue cycles—continue unabated, dealing with health data, health data classes, and United States core data.

The toll of this demanding workload is reflected in the healthcare industry’s high administrative staff attrition rates, ranging from 15% to 30% annually according to MSDC data. While cloud fax solutions have made strides in digitizing fax communication, the broader challenge lies in improving overall efficiency and workflows for healthcare administrative teams, emphasizing health data interoperability, health information exchange, and interoperable health information exchange.

healthcare workflow issues

Crtical pain points

A conversation with a Chief Information Officer (CIO) from a large health system underscored this need for comprehensive workflow improvements. The healthcare document management landscape presents several critical pain points:

  1. Wasted Time: Significant time is lost in managing documents manually, impacting overall productivity.
  2. Admin Job Attrition: The inefficiencies in document management contribute to high turnover rates among administrative staff.
  3. Prioritization Challenges: Healthcare documents vary widely in urgency, creating challenges in prioritizing tasks effectively.
  4. High Error Rates: Manual processes are prone to errors, leading to potential issues in data accuracy and compliance.
  5. Compliance Issues: HIPAA compliance continues to be a major cost factor in the healthcare industry.
Cures Act

While initiatives such as the Cures Act have propelled digitization efforts in healthcare. That legislation was limited to focus on EHR to EHR integration standards. There is a pressing need to prioritize document interoperability and streamline workflows, incorporating fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) for enhancing interoperability, and addressing the technological aspects through health information systems and health information technology. Embracing technology to bridge gaps between legacy systems and modern solutions can significantly enhance operational efficiency and improve patient care outcomes for healthcare providers and patients, ensuring the secure and efficient exchange of patient data and achieving semantic interoperability.

Efforts to enhance document interoperability and workflow efficiency are not just about adopting new technology but also about fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration within the healthcare ecosystem.

At Documo, we recognize these challenges and are committed to empowering healthcare professionals with innovative tools that automate document processing, reduce errors, and optimize workflows. By aligning technology with the evolving needs of healthcare, we can navigate the complexities of document management and drive meaningful change across the industry.

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