Healthcare interoperability can put people first

We strive for interoperability because it empowers us with relevant information to make better decisions. A successful interoperability strategy pairs functional technology with the support to use it.

Interoperability is worthy of our attention because it helps each of us make better decisions. Whether a physician is reviewing patient results, a director is estimating supplies to order, or an executive is setting an annual budget, each of us aims to make better decisions because we are better informed.

Conversations about interoperability can focus on technical details amid an alphabet soup of interfaces and data standards. Technical infrastructure is required, but the work of interoperability extends beyond connecting technologies. Having the right help from the right resource is also key, especially when tools are complex or unfamiliar.

Making interoperability work for each of us

The same questions that drive our design of interoperability can help us assess whether we are achieving our goals for its use.

As patients pursuing care in today’s integrated delivery system, each of us asks questions about interoperability:

  • Can I find my lab result? Can my doctor see this photo of my injury? Can I review my visit notes from my out-of-network specialist in my patient portal? Can I upload my health data from my watch or wearable? Is my data secure?

Providers, clinicians, and other care team members ask the same questions, and more.

  • Can I see my patient’s health record from another institution? Is this patient’s medication list complete and current? Can I trust the decision support in our tools can reference the patient’s full medical history?
  • Is my update to the patient’s contact information going to be available for her physician? Will her bill be sent to this new address?

Answers to these questions may require technical, clinical, or operational expertise, influencing who can best help answer them. As a patient, uploading my latest A1C levels may require technical support. Perhaps I can do it myself with a self-help tutorial. As a provider, importing a patient’s medical history from an external system may require someone who knows my workflow; selecting the right encounter to document on when multiple exist may require clinical experience. 

How do we help those using our integrated systems? As our world becomes more complex, navigating it must become easier. Periodically encountering friction with interoperability is almost guaranteed but it can certainly be manageable. 

Help for humans in a digital world

A service desk that is both comprehensive in capability and tailored in response is a key component to getting every patient and provider back to her task at hand – improving health.

A service desk that itself is interoperable – recognizing who we are, identifying the technology we are using, responding to our needs with the right resource, and accommodating our preferences for response – is further proof that interoperability is a practice rather than an initiative.

Reaching this interoperability nirvana may be a moving target, but it does get easier with the focus and scale of a service desk that understands healthcare. For example,

  • A focus on customer experience and customer satisfaction can help increase adoption of tools and technology, allowing you to realize the full value of your interoperability investments.
  • Offering multi-channel support – meeting your customer through chat as well as phone and offering self-service options as well as a helping human – can better match the clinician's urgency or the physician’s availability.
  • Service desk providers of size and scale can often tailor services to more user types/personas, like affiliate providers who are infrequent flyers, home health workers who move between patients’ homes, specialty providers, and others. Similarly, connecting those who need help to the right resources, whether clinical, operational, or technical, also becomes easier.
  • Service desk providers of size and scale may be capable of advancing human-centered automation like revising intelligent call routing or connecting to virtual assistants based on support demand trends, more quickly and, ultimately, advancing your patients’ and providers’ digital experience.

A robust service desk optimizes interoperability by ensuring stakeholders can access and use the information interoperability is designed to provide. The support provided by a comprehensive service desk is critical to helping organizations realize the full value and patient care impact of the investments they make in their EHR and associated technologies.

Providing analytic insight for decision-makers

Analytics is another area in which it is important to focus on the needs of end-users. Interoperability supports analytics by making it possible to mine big data for insights that can improve individual patient care, enhance population health, increase quality, and drive operational efficiency.

At the technical level, interoperability makes it possible to pull together data from disparate systems (the EHR, ambulatory, and financial systems, etc.) to provide a more complete picture of patient care. At the user level, C-suite executives and other decision-makers should be able to easily access insights, based on the data enabled by interoperability. 

For example, with analytics in place, physicians, nurses and other providers can better track outcomes on the individual patient level or across the patient population, facilitating both patient-level and population health insights. Ideally, those insights will align with the organization’s strategic priorities, as well as national initiatives like Value Based Care (VBC). However, this is all easier said than done.

Harnessing the power of interoperability to advance analytics requires a deep bench of skilled IT professionals. Many healthcare organizations struggle to recruit and retain the analytics expertise they would like to see in-house. Analytics expertise is prized across all industries, and healthcare sometimes has a tough time competing.

At the same time, interoperability challenges have become more complex, spanning an expanding universe of use cases, users, systems, and devices. For example, interoperability initiatives can include:

  • Internal interoperability, e.g., pulling patient information from multiple EHRs as well as from ERP or ancillary revenue cycle applications to paint a more complete picture.
  • Interoperability with third-party providers, e.g., connecting information across different institutions, such as between an acute care hospital and a skilled nursing facility.
  • Interoperability that supports at-home care, including hospital-at-home and remote patient monitoring.

As the healthcare ecosystem becomes more complex, it can be hard to find — let alone recruit and retain — individuals with the breadth of expertise needed to draw analytic insights from vastly different systems. 

The advantages of a managed service

No matter the customer - whether patient or provider, operator or executive - empowering each to adopt and apply interoperability is key to realizing its intended benefits. One effective strategy is to deploy support as a managed service.

A managed services approach to the service desk can take the pressure off of in-house IT staff and ensure a good customer experience for end users. The benefits of taking a managed services approach to service desk offerings can include:

  • A deeper bench of support. A partner that focuses on service desk offerings, rather than the direct provision of patient care, can provide consistent and targeted technical support staff with broad expertise that can be hard to hire and retain in-house.
  • A broader breadth of support scope. A typical healthcare organization may have 20, or 50 or more different ‘user types’ who require support tailored to their specific roles. Most healthcare organizations find it challenging to staff an in-house IT help desk that has the breadth to support this volume and variety of user types. On the other hand, an enterprise-level Managed Services Provider (MSP) can provide this breadth of support.
  • Multi-tiered support services. A managed services approach to the service desk can provide a tiered approach to service desk support, with the ability to escalate issues according to the level of expertise needed to resolve them. In addition, an MSP with specific expertise in healthcare can provide a clinical service desk that results in first contact resolution for many issues, averting the need for escalation to higher-level services. 
  • A better customer service experience. The core competency of a healthcare organization is patient care, not service desk support. Off-loading the service desk to an outside organization can free up resources for focusing on patient care.

Similarly, taking a managed services approach to analytics can help organizations optimize the benefits of interoperability for decision-makers. A managed services approach to analytics can help organizations by providing:

  • Broad expertise in healthcare analytics. Outsourced talent can bring a perspective to analytics challenges that is based on experience gained by working with many different organizations. This broad experience can prove invaluable in solving analytics challenges.
  • A dedicated analytics team. Not all organizations have the resources to hire an entire in-house team dedicated to analytics. Leveraging managed services for analytics means that the analytics support team will be more than one or two staff members deep.
  • Freed-up IT resources for other organizational priorities. Outsourcing analytics support can free up the in-house IT staff to devote more time to priorities related to direct patient care.

A user-centered approach to interoperability

Organizations stand to gain the most from interoperability initiatives when we keep the end-user in mind. By taking a strategic approach to end-user support, organizations can move one step closer to realizing the full vision of interoperability.

To learn more about how managed services can help you make the most of your interoperability initiatives, get in touch with our team.


Topics: featured, Interoperability

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