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The Dire Need for Interoperability in HealthCare

July 10, 2023
July 10, 2023

How We Can Support Those Who Provide Care

This blog is taken from a recent interview with Kelly Aldrich. The interview was conducted by HealthStream’s Dan Pawlus.. Aldrich shared that her 25 years as a nurse taking care of critically ill and injured trauma and open-heart patients had created a deep understanding of the importance of interoperability to patients, their nurses and to healthcare. 


Interoperability – It Matters to Patients and Providers

Aldrich defined interoperability as a seamless exchange of patient data that enables clinicians to provide safe, efficient and effective care. She shared that a typical patient in an ICU setting may be surrounded by as many as 15 different machines – none of which communicate with one another – which requires the nurse to act as a human interoperability interface. Nurses then need to log into and then document findings from each individual machine, synthesize that data and then try to apply critical thinking – quite a challenge given the sheer volume of the input. “Clinicians want to move from data, to information, to knowledge and wisdom about how to best care for a patient,” said Aldrich. Unfortunately, that is not what happens now because of the many proprietary data silos.Aldrich believes that interoperability is the solution. 


Interoperability – Collaboration Matters

Aldrich consults with the Center for Medical Interoperability, a non-profit organization created by healthcare CEOs to mimic other industries that had already taken steps toward interoperability. Collaboration is essential to interoperability in healthcare as it has been in other industries. Aldrich pointed to industries such as banking and cable providers who banded together to create a common infrastructure on which to build upon and then continue to compete in their respective industries. 

Aldrich pointed out that the common infrastructure that allows consumers to use their ATM cards was created due to efforts led by the CEOs of various banks; however, no such model exists in healthcare which remains very siloed in large part due to financial concerns.


Interoperability – Building a User-Driven Model

Aldrich is passionate about building interoperability with the input of the healthcare providers who will ultimately be relying upon it to provide the best care for patients.  Aspects of interoperability such as the user experience, satisfaction, and how that data comes together in a seamless way for providers to be able to care for a patient need to be essential elements of the platform on which interoperability in healthcare is being built. 

A key component to the success is building interoperability with input from nurses.  This will help developers understand issues such as healthcare’s unique workflow, span of control and the challenges that are unique to each nursing specialty. Ultimately, this will result in improvements in the user experience and higher rates of adoption. Aldrich’s own research showed that providing mobile information was high on the nursing wish list along with cleaning up the health record to ensure that it reflected just relevant patient information. 


Interoperability - Addressing the Challenges

Healthcare organizations currently hold patient data which results in patients having to re-introduce themselves to every new provider which may ultimately result in information about such things as medications and allergies being inaccurately or incompletely reported. At a minimum, this results in less precise patient information being created or it may even create patient safety issues. Aldrich believes that it is time to flip that paradigm and build a trusted platform that will allow the patient to own their own history and data.

In order to achieve true interoperability, Aldrich believes that there is still some preliminary work to be done to simply define interoperability in healthcare. Leaders will need to work together to remove financial and data silos. Developers will need to include nurses and other healthcare providers to better understand the unique needs of the healthcare industry and to develop the policy to govern its use. Leaders will also need to work together to establish parameters and build the necessary infrastructure.

Healthstream is dedicated to working towards a solution to address the current lack of interoperability in healthcare. The creation of the hStream platform allows interoperability between systems such as HealthStream’s applications, hospitals, and third-party applications to talk with one another. As well as allows applications to communicate with one another, resulting in safer and more efficient healthcare workforce and system.