Posts Tagged: interoperability

Immunization Interoperability: Barriers, Challenges, and Opportunities

immunization interoperability

The U.S. and the entire world are in the middle of the most extensive mass vaccination effort ever. The pandemic and inoculation are also creating lots of data. That’s data that needs to be shareable and exchangeable. In other words, immunization interoperability is paramount right now. The problem is that healthcare interoperability, in general, has a myriad of challenges and barriers.

The U.S. healthcare system is not a national one. That’s a big part of the problem. There’s no consistency around data or how to share it. Additionally, providers all use different EHRs, some that can exchange information easily and others that cannot.

Immunization interoperability issues aren’t new. The pandemic just shined a brighter light on them, like with so many others.

The U.S. Has 61 Immunization Information Systems

Did you know that the U.S. and its territories have 61 independent immunization information systems (IIS)? These align with different city and state health departments, and the CDC has governance

In 1998, there was a movement toward a national immunization registry, but it failed to gain traction. Instead, the IIS were established. While they do follow national standards, the operation is at the city and state level. Further, states also dictated immunization requirements for their citizens. 

How Immunization Interoperability Works Now

While it would seem that data is living in silos, there are current processes in place. Providers enter immunization information of patients into their EHR and send it to the IIS. In turn, some public health programs can access the information. IIS also sends information back to the EHR to support forecasts. 

Unfortunately, due to the lack of standardization around healthcare interoperability and data, it’s not effective across the board. 

The data exchange becomes complicated because there are inconsistencies in data formats, standards, and access. Different types of providers perform inoculations, such as primary care physicians, pharmacists, and hospital clinicians. 

What’s the Answer for Immunization Interoperability?

There’s no one answer or one pathway. Immunizations are just one small part of the bigger picture of healthcare interoperability. We’re just all more aware of immunizations right now and the discussions around digital vaccine cards or some other method of tracking and validating vaccines. 

Standardization of data formats is necessary, so that requires agreement with regulatory bodies and EHR companies. Simplifying the IIS seems like a smart option, as well. But, should there be only one? That’s probably not going to happen, just like there’s not a national patient identifier. The U.S. doesn’t have a national healthcare system. Each state has different laws and rules, and healthcare is, in most cases, a private business.

Investment in public health technology infrastructure is another must-have. The CDC is on board with this with its Data Modernization Initiative.

Data Must Be Interoperable to Be Actionable

The bottom line is that healthcare data must be interoperable to be actionable. If this information is only available in a limited capacity, it can’t serve the individual patient or the greater public. We’re extreme advocates for removing obstacles around data sharing. Data is the fuel for every industry’s future, and healthcare is no exception. 

Data Management Pain Points in Healthcare

healthcare data pain points

To say data management is challenging in healthcare is an understatement. Many challenges persist for all healthcare data stakeholders. Regulations create compliance requirements, and a disconnect in interoperability makes data sharing burdensome. These data management pain points can add up and may have your organization looking for ways to alleviate them. As pioneers in data management, we’ve learned a lot over the years and want to provide you with some pain-free solutions.

What Are the Most Agonizing Data Management Pain Points?

There are aches and pains all through the ecosystem that touch compliance, interoperability, aggregation, insights, and more.

Compliance Conundrums

Healthcare data requires special care and compliance with HIPAA and other laws. It’s a pain point because it can hinder some areas like interoperability. But the biggest pain is risk and threats. Healthcare is a favorite target of hackers. Healthcare cybersecurity is integral to compliance. That means that any organization that accesses it must have protocols in place along with regular auditing and a strong security posture. 

The Interoperability Pain Point

Without integration of systems, fragmentation is a threat to healthcare data and interoperability. That’s just talking about the internal needs. Sharing data with payers, other providers, public health, and consumers isn’t standardized. Regulators are attempting to remediate this, but the fact that the U.S. health system is so fragmented itself doesn’t help. Until streamlining protocols and practices blanket the entire industry, this will continue to be a pain point. 

Data Aggregation Is Painful

For providers and payers especially, data aggregation can be difficult. With multiple sources of data, combining it all for analysis, sharing, or other activities is often held up by a lack of IT resource bandwidth. Aggregating data enables you to learn more because there’s more context. From a predictive lens, healthcare organizations and patients would benefit from this analysis. There are ways to do this via APIs and analytics engines. This healthcare big data could significantly improve outcomes. 

Moving Data Is Laborious

Just moving data is sometimes an arduous task. Organizations often need to convert data from one health information system (HIS) to another. Others want to retire legacy systems and archive data they still have to retain. 

Not having enough resources causes this healthcare data point. Internal expertise on how to migrate data accurately can also be challenging. There are healthcare data pros like InfoWerks that can help you with this heavy lift. 

What Are Your Healthcare Data Pain Points?

Your data should be improving operations, not hindering you. However, data can only be helpful when it’s accessible, portable, and interoperable. We’re experts at all three and make data management pain-free. Contact our team today to discuss your healthcare data pain points. 

2021 Healthcare IT Trends: A Look Ahead

2021 healthcare it trends

2020 will go down as one of the most disruptive years ever. The world of healthcare was upended by the pandemic, exposing many weaknesses in the healthcare IT ecosystem. The issues around interoperability were always present, and the year began with HHS and CMS attempting to solve them with the new interoperability rule. With 2020 in hindsight, what 2021 healthcare IT trends can the industry expect?

Digital Transformation Accelerates Even Faster

COVID-19 fast-tracked digital transformation for many healthcare systems and hospitals. Telehealth adoption soared as well as remote work. The new demands of a world where people needed to stay home accelerated the need to embrace healthcare digitization

The transformation isn’t over. There are still many challenges that healthcare organizations face—bandwidth, regulations, costs, and more. However, in 2021, the role of healthcare IT and CIOs will continue to evolve and expand to achieve digital transformation. 

Cybersecurity Threats Persist

Ransomware was the leading cybersecurity threat for healthcare in 2020. In October, six hospitals were hit in one day. The consequences of the ransomware shutdown systems and caused operational issues. These incidents and others uncovered vulnerabilities around redundancy and monitoring. 

In 2021, healthcare IT leaders will need to improve their cybersecurity posture with a proactive approach. The thinking must move from “if” to “when.” A possible response to this 2021 IT healthcare trend is to leverage new tools like AI to thwart cyber-attacks. Additionally, organizations will need to rethink business continuity practices so that they never lose their data.

Telemedicine Will Become the Norm

2021 healthcare it trends telehealth

Telemedicine had not taken off until it became mandatory. The move also meant that CMS expanded coverage to 85 new services for telehealth. That move made telemedicine more accessible, yet challenges remain. These include lack of broadband internet, interoperability, and integration.

Look for providers and telehealth platforms to work on these issues to perfect the model. Patients will also have a higher demand for the services, especially those with chronic conditions. The industry could see a hybrid care model for patients, limiting in-person appointments, and shifting to telehealth when possible for convenience. Finally, telehealth could encourage more people to keep up with regular visits since they can do so from the comfort of their homes. 

EHRs Evolve to Meet New Demands

EHRs have been around for over two decades. They seem to be in a constant stage of reiteration. Both the interoperability rule and the pandemic made these iterations more rapid. In the new year, EHR giants will capitalize on even more technology advances, such as integrating virtual assistants, using AI, and moving toward easy, secure data exchanges. 

Big Data Management Becomes More Prominent

Managing healthcare big data isn’t a new trend, but after 2020, it’s a bigger priority for healthcare providers and payers. Looking at healthcare data related to COVID-19, it’s very clear to see the mismanagement of it. The need, moving forward, is for centralization, security, and management. In response, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all have healthcare-specific clouds. 

By using AI engines and advanced technology, big data can deliver insights that lead to better decision-making and care delivery for the greater public and on an individual basis. Right now, the data is more reactive. Where the industry needs to move to is delivering predictive analytics. 

The Patient Experience

2021 healthcare it trends health app

The interoperability rule, as well as proposed HIPAA changes, emphasize the patient experience. It’s about giving them better and easier access to their patient records. The objective is to transition to value-based care and motivate consumers to be more involved in their health. These drivers will lead to more consumer-friendly apps where patients can view records, make appointments, communicate with clinicians, and more. 

The industry could see partnerships with big tech to make this possible. In October, Google launched a healthcare interoperability readiness program to assist healthcare organizations with compliance with the rule and deliver better experiences. 

2021 Healthcare IT Trends: What’s on Your Radar?

As you prepare for 2021, what healthcare IT trends are on your radar? Do you have concerns around interoperability, big data, compliance, or redundancy? InfoWerks can likely help—we’re experts in healthcare data management. Explore all we can do for you.