In the long-tail aftermath of the pandemic, healthcare has been one of the industries most transformed by technological advances and workforce evolutions. As telehealth, remote care, and IoT-enabled personal health devices have become more commonplace, digital health services and platforms empower providers to deliver more efficient and quality patient care.
The problem? Mainly, a lot of health technology has been developed in silos, generating isolated data sets and keeping users from pulling the highest value from the databases they’ve established. This negatively impacts productivity in healthcare centers and forces practitioners to navigate numerous disparate systems to access essential data—or deliver it to patients in a timely manner. However, steps are already being taken to counteract this and set trends in a different direction.
Understanding the Cures Act
Back in 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act1 was instated to begin developing policies and procedures to govern the development of electronic health records and healthcare data oversight in healthcare IT sectors. Now, in 2022, critical elements of that policy will be officially implemented and enforced, pushing providers and healthcare centers to transform policy and technical infrastructure necessary to share data locally and nationwide.2
This will occur in several ways:
- Continued implementation and enforcement of regulations to ensure healthcare practices will not interfere with access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (EHI).
- Application programming interfaces (APIs) will be standardized to establish a secure information sharing foundation.
- Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) will enact a national policy infrastructure to streamline data across EHR networks.
Compliance with the Cures Act requirements will play out through efforts such as providing patients with increasing remote access to medical records through apps (via APIs), plus the certification of healthcare IT teams to better engage with this industry-specific technology.
All of this will lead to a growing emphasis and technical support for healthcare interoperability.
Defining interoperability within healthcare IT
Interoperability simply means the capability for different data networks, devices, and apps to access, exchange, process, and cooperatively employ data across and within organizational and national boundaries. The primary purpose is to deliver a more efficient and optimized transfer of healthcare information between individuals and providers around the world.3
This is an increasingly critical need as patient-facing programs become more dependent on underlying technologies, which can enable higher quality care and patient empowerment. But this also will require providers to invest in equally open, yet secure platforms.
Benefits of interoperability implementation in healthcare
Why should healthcare providers enable data-sharing, and how can they expect to see an ROI on interoperability initiatives? Here are several key ways these initiatives can benefit both providers and patients:
- Reduced administrative costs
- Increased efficiency in care delivery
- Lowered cost of care
- Greater revenue and growth opportunities
Major healthcare IT interoperability trends and applications
Several trends look to shape how interoperability will impact the healthcare industry moving forward. One significant development is the adoption of cloud-based EHR systems, providing more secure storage and cloud-based apps that are compatible across various networks. This will facilitate patient access to essential data and enhance provider decision-making while providing a secure environment.4
Second is the streamlining of operations through interoperable devices, which can give providers faster access to essential, and potentially life-saving patient data in the proper context. While the volume of patient data continues to proliferate, the burden of sorting through and analyzing that data will be shifted off the actual users, freeing them from delays, reducing wait times, and making urgent care more effective.
For patients, a third trend will be accessing more data and taking more proactive control of their own healthcare. Providers will be expected to educate patients on what essential reports or data points mean in context with a patient’s health status or planned treatments. Patients will have more peace of mind by combining provider data with external databases (like WebMD) and being informed to make better decisions in their own care delivery.
2022 will be a pivotal year as the vision of the Cures Act becomes more of a reality. While the transition will come with many challenges, the long-term benefits will be a revolutionized healthcare industry that empowers providers and patients alike.
- Congress.gov, “H.R.34 – 21st Century Cures Act,” https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/34
- Health Affairs, “Delivering On The Promise Of Health Information Technology In 2022,” 2022, https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20220217.71427
- Electronic Health Reporter, “Why Healthcare Interoperability Is So Important In 2022,” 2022, https://electronichealthreporter.com/why-healthcare-interoperability-is-so-important-in-2022/
- Healthcare IT Today, “2022 Predictions for Healthcare Interoperability,” 2022, https://www.healthcareittoday.com/2022/01/21/2022-predictions-for-healthcare-interoperability/