Gathering and Storing Healthcare Information - The first step in the journey to Integrated Care 

You've previously read about the concept of Integrated Care and what it sets out to achieve. Now we look at the 'Why' and the 'How' we can help to achieve this journey to Integrated Care. 

Improving an individual’s health has the flow-on effect of improving the health of the population at large. Which can lead to reductions in the financial costs associated with running the health care system. Being able to view a secure shared care record allows for timely, safe and informed decision–making, for and with the patient. This ‘person-centric’ health system transcends boundaries between primary, community and hospital-based care.

Healthcare IT has a significant role to play in the seamless integration of our healthcare systems. This requires a common data platform to enable a shared, dynamic view of the person’s medical record, supported by a workflow which enables teams to work together across care settings. 

How can the healthcare IT system enable this?
The IT system and interoperability is a pain point for most healthcare organisations - the ability to provide clinicians with timely, accurate access to information which helps to improve the decision-making process is a necessity. However, many components in the healthcare system aren’t necessarily connected effectively, or indeed at all, thus hampering the ability to deliver connected healthcare. 

Gathering healthcare information
The many systems that are designed to improve the delivery of healthcare data can themselves become an obstacle. This is because legacy systems and new technologies in some instances cannot communicate with each other, hampering the ability to freely exchange data and make information available to those who need it.  Seamless integration of these clinical and health systems is, therefore, required for connected healthcare.

One way to provide interoperability is through a healthcare-focused integration engine. These engines act as a universal translator for the multiple systems running within organisations. Integration engines that are designed for rapid interoperability between systems of varied maturity, and standards, work as a hub, and spoke model. They connect multiple systems together centrally, and manipulate data in the process, so that each destination system can understand it.

An integration engine that is scalable, powerful, and easy-to-use, is crucial. One that can adapt as new technologies and standards like HL7 FHIR emerge, and evolves with the needs of patients, care providers, and healthcare organisations.

Storing healthcare information
Data can be stored and shared in many different ways across organisations. To get the complete picture of an individual’s health, an IT system needs to provide secure data acquisition, and integration engine capabilities, across a wide array of systems.

Secure exchange of personal health information is a basic requirement for clinical IT systems, and with an increasing focus on open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, which provide managed access to applications and their data) this can be a challenge.

Robust privacy and security levels are necessary, given the sensitive nature of the data created, exchanged and stored in these systems. Healthcare organisations need to ensure they are aware of potential risks, and do everything they can to protect valuable personal health informationSecurity measures such as SMART(Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies) should be applied to standards in healthcare data integration. SMART adds a layer of security in front of FHIR interfaces to support safe access to data held within an EHR – or any other healthcare information repository.

In addition to the confidentiality of clinical information, we should be concerned with its integrity and availability. Fast, reliable connectivity and data sharing between legacy and next-generation health systems through the use of a robust integration engine ensures all information relating to a patient can be fed into a central repository and shared across the chain of care in real time.

The result? Accurate and reliable interoperability, which is the basis of Integrated Care.

Now is the time to accelerate systems that empower people, keeping them well for longer, and preventing the onset of preventable chronic disease.

This is the ‘why and the how’ of providing healthcare IT systems that gather and store accurate and comprehensive data, while delivering rapid interoperability between healthcare systems.

Our next post will discuss further critical elements that support the journey to Integrated Care.

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Read the white paper on the 6 essential steps to support a coordinated model of care delivery.