A 2016 KLAS Research report suggests that effective interoperability in Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) still eludes most healthcare providers and more importantly physicians.

This report makes a striking claim that only about six percent of clinicians could access electronic data about their patients that resides on a different EMR system. This additional data would immediately inform them of additional electronic patient-centred information that can assist with informed decision-making and treatment of their patients. While there is absolutely no disagreement that a high level of interoperability is essential to improving patient care, the outcome of this 2016 KLAS report illustrates the considerable amount of work that needs to be done to achieve an impactful exchange of patient records. 

The challenges related to effective sharing, especially with a different EMR vendor than yours, are experienced across all facility types and across vendors. Most of the vendors surveyed were found lacking sufficient capability to consistently and effectively share patient data with partners using a different EMR.

Lack of essential interoperability makes basic sharing of patient data almost a privilege for physicians who need to spend time and effort to ascertain the patient history to arrive at an informed decision. Such time-consuming decisions add to the frustration of patients who are subjected to delays.

A core strategy of any healthcare provider that employs an EMR is achieving interoperability — the free flow of patient information across organisational, vendor, technology and geographic boundaries. Interoperability is seen as the flow of information between electronic health records and as the exchange of clinical data like problem lists, medications and laboratory results. But it also encompasses the flow of information between personal health records, public health agencies, health plans and organisations conducting clinical research.

Continuity of care is one of the major reasons that the electronic health record holds value. The ultimate goal is interoperability — the ability to pass patient information from one system to the next so that the record can follow the patient wherever he or she goes. Interoperability in itself is a subject of discussion and debate at both a technical and business level.

Key highlights and benefits of interoperability below help in translating it aptly for physicians: 

Easy access to patient records:
In todays' world, patients get care from a wide range of caregivers, which leads to the fragmentation of vital information. An interoperable environment enables the entire patient electronic medical record to be more easily accessed, providing a complete picture of a patient's health.

Informed decisions for treatment:
Understanding standardised terms and concepts as data is transmitted preserves the meaning of the content and creates a way for clinicians to analyse data from all collaborating systems. This makes it easier to diagnose patients and make informed decisions for treatment. 

Integration of Health-Related Records:
The information-intensive healthcare industry produces enormous amounts of data from diverse devices and systems. Interoperability allows this information to be seamlessly integrated across and beyond the health network to other healthcare vendors, organisations, providers and national-level organisations.

Reduced Healthcare Costs:
Effectively sharing information between providers and properly communicating data reduces costs. Replicated tests are minimised and data is available when and where it is needed.

Fewer Medical Errors:
When patient care is delivered in different locations by different providers, the patient records are scattered across several health systems, causing an increased potential for documentation errors. Collecting, centralising and analysing data should reduce the error rate due to less ambiguous translations and terminology.

Support for Global Disease Management:
The treatment of infectious diseases is a worldwide problem that involves the expertise of physicians and healthcare providers across the country and around the world. The information that is gathered from these varied sources can aid collaboration toward treatment and an eventual cure. The greatest benefit of the access and use of healthcare data and information may be creating knowledge for the benefit of humanity in a world without health borders.

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Integrated care – healthcare that crosses organisational boundaries and different care settings – is the goal of health systems worldwide. To learn more about navigating the journey to integrated care and the IT strategy to reach your destination download the white paper now!