Five healthcare interoperability myths debunked

KevinErdalEvery healthcare organization is on an interoperability journey. But some organizations are further ahead than others. Why? Misconceptions about interoperability can derail an organization's progress toward a connected healthcare ecosystem. Connecting the dots in your technology ecosystem begins with reframing these five misconceptions about interoperability that may be preventing your organization from moving ahead.

MYTH #1. Regulatory compliance is the primary reason to invest in interoperability. Regulatory compliance is one reason to invest in interoperability, but it is not the only reason. Most importantly, interoperability supports positive healthcare outcomes by enabling the sharing of clinical data. It empowers patients as healthcare consumers and enables healthcare organizations to use data-driven insights to increase operational and financial efficiency. However, regulatory compliance is still important: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been nudging healthcare organizations farther along the path to interoperability for over a decade. And a major milestone is coming up this October on patient information sharing as provisions of the Patient Access and Interoperability rule go into effect. Ultimately, regulatory compliance matters, but it is not the only driver of interoperability.

MYTH #2. Interoperability is too expensive to solve. Some believe interoperability is an impossible — or unaffordable — dream. Five years ago, that may have felt true. We didn’t have the technology or tools we have today, including cloud-based services enabling automated data sharing between EHR systems and specialty applications. Likewise, the health data standards that support interoperability have matured with FHIR in use across the world. Due to advances in technology, the costs of developing and maintaining interoperability solutions now provide a better return on investment with ample assurance that these interoperability solutions will be utilized in the long term. We now have the tools to enable better clinical care and enable patients to see the same data their clinicians have. The U.S. healthcare system is closer to achieving interoperability today than it has been in any previous decade.

MYTH #3. Interoperability is an all-or-nothing game: go big or go home. The key to succeeding at interoperability is to solve individual challenges rather than solve everything at once. A good interoperability partner will ask the right questions to help your organization identify key interoperability requirements and starting points. For example, is the cardiology team complaining about duplicate data entry because the EHR and the specialty cardiology solution can’t share basic patient data? Is the chief nursing officer concerned an inefficient documentation workflow is reducing the time nurses can spend with patients? A handful of small wins can give your organization the experience and momentum it needs to tackle larger problems.

MYTH #4. The best way to achieve interoperability is to buy a plug-and-play solution. Plug-and-play is appealing because it creates the illusion of a one-and-done solution. In reality, interoperability challenges are as unique as each healthcare organization; there is no such thing as a plug-and-play solution. Every data exchange has a unique set of interoperability requirements depending on the EHRs inuse, other software solutions employed, the services provided, the patient populations served, and the users of the service. The first step toward interoperability should be an assessment of your organization’s unique interoperability challenges.

MYTH #5. Point-to-point interfaces are the only way to approach interoperability. Point-to-point interfaces are the traditional approach, and in some cases, may still be the best method. But as technology has advanced, new methods have emerged, and new tools have become available. With new tools and methods, the need for an enterprise interoperability strategy has become imperative to help manage maintenance, speed to delivery, and enable repeatability. Options such as low-code platforms can help organizations address barriers such as skill-set gaps. Low-code platforms make it easier to achieve integrations even if an organization’s IT staff doesn’t include a unicorn developer with healthcare expertise and advanced coding skills. In other words, it is time to think of technology as an interoperability enabler, rather than an interoperability barrier.

Forward-thinking organizations understand that interoperability is not just a compliance issue, and not just an expense. Interoperability is an investment. Advanced interoperability can lead to a more satisfied workforce and happier, healthier patients. To learn more about how your organization can achieve better outcomes by advancing interoperability, visit Nordic at


This article originally appeared in Becker's Hospital Review.

Topics: featured, digital health

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