Health systems face a great deal of uncertainty as the government debates a host of initiatives that may impact reimbursements, quality reporting requirements, and the prioritization of technology initiatives.

And while these health systems might be tempted to take a wait-and-see approach before investing in technology infrastructure changes, a more proactive approach would be to hedge against industry uncertainties and address current requirements by investing in flexible and open platforms that offer care management applications and enable proactive collaboration with patients.

These platforms support the need for real-time or near-real-time capabilities and are easily integrated with third-party applications to address both current and future computing patterns. In a sense, they remedy the healthcare interoperability crisis by uniting disparate health systems and arming providers and payers with the data they need to support care management and effectively engage patients.

Real-time capabilities built from integration

So why should health IT platforms support real-time integration, rather than batch-oriented, data-warehouse-supported integration?

Consider the example of a care manager’s effort to identify patients at risk for being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. If the care manager must rely on data that is several days or weeks old, they may not be able to take proactive measures to minimize the number of patients at risk.

But if that care manager has access to real-time analytics, that timely information can enhance clinical decision making at the point of care. Further, imagine a clinician—equipped with meaningful and relevant data that accounts for current patient findings and the health of a population—making more accurate diagnoses, offering better recommendations for more appropriate therapies, and avoiding duplication of services.

Driving patient engagement with convenience

Also driving the demand for solutions that provide real-time or near-real-time capabilities is the consumerization of healthcare. As consumers, we’ve come to expect immediate access to the news, the ability to purchase airline tickets with the push of a button, and the option to check bank balances on the fly. Why would we expect anything less when it comes to using patient engagement systems, integrating outside data, and leveraging insights from analytics?

This is an important question. Yet, for too long, healthcare hasn’t answered it. The evolution of health IT has been slow and arduous for both providers and patients, burdened by disparate systems that fail to even communicate with one another, let alone offer a means for engaging patients. If we want consumers to embrace patient engagement tools, we can’t expect them to wait 24 hours for replies to appointment requests. Instead, we need to make the scheduling of an office visit as quick and simple as making a dinner reservation with OpenTable. Similarly, a patient must have the ability to view their medical records as soon as that patient leaves the doctor’s office—or as fast as they’re able to view the status of their most recent Amazon order.

This initiative to focus on consumer convenience starts with ensuring for providers that the technology in place works smoothly and harmoniously. When hospital systems integrate for the purpose of more convenient service and improved care outcomes, they will do much more than enhance the user experience for their providers—they will make patient engagement a less daunting task. Only then—when technology improves both outcomes and convenience, much like Amazon or Uber—will consumers flock to it.

Support for current and future needs

Imagine a hospital, while transitioning to a new care management system, continuing its use of its legacy care management solution for a period of time. The hospital may eventually opt to migrate from the older solution and/or decide to add third-party apps to address new requirements.

But with an open platform, that organization will have the ability to modify its mix of solutions and prepare for whatever unpredictable challenges the future has in store.

Despite that uncertainty, I believe it’s reasonable to expect that integrated technology and added real-time convenience will remain in demand well into the future. The business case for real-time solutions that give providers the ability to make instant decisions and have convenient access to information cannot be overstated, regardless of where government regulation—and changes to care access—take the healthcare industry.

At the heart of these advancements lies integration—that facilitator of seamless communication and real-time data access—provided by an open, end-to-end platform that gives an organization’s providers the option to utilize a variety of best-in-class solutions that address both current and future requirements. By giving providers this flexibility, a healthcare organization also gives their providers’ patients their best hope for a brighter, healthier tomorrow.

Written by Dave Bennett, Executive Vice President, Product and Strategy, Orion Health.

The original article can be found at the Becker’s Hospital Review site here.