Raising the bar for interoperability in Healthcare: The Covid-19 Influence.

Interoperability means the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.

No one who delivers healthcare hasn’t been affected in many ways by the events of 2020. Not only have we been impacted by the pandemic, but we’ve seen major government regulations passed for interoperability and data sharing.

As a champion of interoperability and population health, I’ve noticed this occupies a lot of time for both our healthcare teams and our clients. We’re adapting to rapid change in remote care delivery and safe data sharing. The impact of COVID19, and the need to create engagement, empowerment, and drive to change course of care for patients who are impacted by this disease, is still top of mind for everyone.

We will get past this pandemic eventually. But the impact on care delivery, the continued need for safe data sharing and strong information exchange networks, will remain. While there is still a lot to do, providers and technology partners have already achieved more in this space than they may have thought we could before. In many ways, in responding to COVID-19, we’ve already brought the future to the present.

Enabling care, and care management, from a distance

During the pandemic, as patients were unable to come in for regular appointments in person, remote alternatives quickly became viable. Virtual visits, telehealth options and the ability for providers to deliver interactions those patients would normally go their PCP or an urgent care center for are now “matters of fact”.

We’ve also found it’s possible to identify and manage patients across the whole care continuum, whether they’re healthy or sick, or at risk for COVID-19. Providers can also use care management solutions track their own statuses, such as ICU bed or isolation room availability, and best serve patients as needed. Some organizations are successfully managing 200% more patients using these solutions now than they were than prior to the pandemic. Coupling these with telehealth tools that actively notify patients increases their engagement and builds a strong continuity of care.

Growing scope of clinical decision support

In the past, clinical decision support has been limited to a single EHR, and depended only on that EHR’s information. Sharing information across systems enables open platforms, taking much a broader scope of relevant information as it’s needed. A global healthcare crisis like COVID has been a driver to make this happen.

For instance, as patients recover, we see key questions about lung condition, fatigue, cardiovascular issues be asked at triage. This data goes to drive other clinical workflows regardless of the initial care provider. In the future decision support will continue to be driven by patient histories and actions. This broader network of an interoperable healthy ecosystem is what we’re building for the future, and we’ve already seen it in action.

Proactive data sharing and structure

We have proved we have the resources to drive remote patient outreach and clinical decision support in a time of healthcare crisis. The future will require organizations to continue working together, especially in states of emergency, and to be proactive rather than reactive. To be reactive, to have to relearn an infrastructure to provide the resources needed immediately, both domestically and globally, wastes time. Our competitors who are proactive, including country-wide and regional health systems, are the quickest actors with the quickest ability to plan forward. They are able to make use of existing data connectivity, create operations and procedures based on what they have already, and know which information will make the most impact in addressing a crisis or eliminating a disease.

The connectivity and information do already exist, and as we’ve seen during the COVID crisis, can be used in ways many providers previously did not think possible.

Editor’s Note: This article or it version originally appeared on Allscripts’ website and also shared on Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 on Becker Hospital review

Published by Aquinius Mung'atia

Aquinius Mung’atia is the Head of Projects at Aga Khan Hospital, Mombasa, and was previously the General Manager of Muthaiga Golf Club and Sigona Golf Clubs, respectively. He is an expert in Strategic Management with over 20 years of experience in both hospitality and healthcare Industry. My Career path boast of extensive training and consultancy experience in Hospitality Industry, Hospital Support Services and Operations, Healthcare Projects and Facility Management, among others. The author is currently a PhD student in Business Administration and holder of MBA in strategic Management (University of Nairobi) and a 1st class honors degree in Hotel and Institution Management (Maseno University) Aquinius is also a healthcare insight and a data analytic enthusiast. Follow him on https://www.linkedin.com/in/aquinius-mungatia or Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/significantinsights/

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