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Interoperability in healthcare: Achieving true meaningful use

July 6, 2015| By Karsten Scherer

nurse at computer

After several years, meaningful use is in the news again. While some lawmakers seek to reduce meaningful use reporting burdens, hospitals are starting to realize benefits beyond incentives, although they're still trying to get a handle on using all the data generated to improve patient care.

Amazingly, I speak to very few healthcare IT leaders who aren't still mastering interoperability, analytics and information security. Given recent years' heavy M&A activity in healthcare, integrating disparate health IT systems has become the bane of many a CIO’s existence.

Simply put, interoperability means different IT systems and applications can interact with each other, exchange information and utilize that information, with, as HIMSS puts it, one goal in mind: ensuring “health information systems ... work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.” (You’ll find more from HIMSS on interoperability here.)

Interoperability takes a village … or at least a partner

Gartner points out that attaining interoperability is a complicated endeavor for healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs), and creates high demand for service providers that understand the landscape and can help navigate the complexity. It’s simple: without the right building blocks in place, the promise of real-time healthcare systems (RTHS) will remain elusive.

Here are three areas Gartner sees healthcare delivery organizations actively seeking outside assistance with:

1. Legacy applications: The multitude of legacy applications health systems use are a major stumbling block toward achieving RTHS. Most HDOs employ a hodgepodge of homegrown applications, modern EHR technology and applications much closer to the end of their useful life than the beginning. These applications will require integration, management and sunsetting where appropriate.

2. Enterprise-class architecture: Healthcare has been slower than other industries to adopt newer technologies, leading to unwieldy application infrastructures that can’t scale to growing demands. For some HDOs, developing enterprise-level applications and infrastructures will require significant changes to the guts of their IT structures as well as outside expertise on the path there.

3. Analytics: The “real-time” in RTHS hinges on leveraging data to proactively improve patient care and cut costs. To that end, HDOs continue to make business intelligence and analytics one of their top priorities. Additionally, they have concerns about mobility, security and master data management, among others.

Interoperability will continue to be a massive area of interest, concern and opportunity.

Learn more about TEKsystems' healthcare staffing and services for healthcare provider organizations

Karsten Scherer leads analyst relations globally for TEKsystems. He enjoys exploring the intersections between clients, the analyst community, technology and business analysis. You can reach him @TwoARGuys on Twitter.

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