There are a lot of things we are going to learn from 2020 related to healthcare and dealing with a pandemic. Right now as we are working on ways to reduce the spread and keep patients safe, it might not be top of mind yet, but eventually, we’ll review what went right and what we need to improve upon. For years healthcare providers, patients, policymakers, and payers have all talked about the importance of interoperability and integration, but little has been done to take concrete steps to allow providers and patients to actually share data seamlessly in their own practice management software system, and also with other systems, for better care. In the wake of COVID-19, that conversation has renewed urgency.
Shortcomings in the U.S. Healthcare System
We don’t have room here to cover all the shortcomings in the U.S. healthcare system, but one place where many clinics have struggled is with integration. Even if you are using technology in your practice, it’s not necessarily integrated. Clinics often put together their practice management software piece by piece, so the individual pieces don’t communicate well. You can add APIs (a term for coding that allows one application to access data and information from another), but they’re not the same as full integration.
On a larger scale, there are thousands of technology vendors out there offering solutions to healthcare organizations of all sizes. That segments patient data into various EHRs based on where they go for care. For patients and providers, the result is a frustrating and disjointed system. During a pandemic, when patients might not be seeking care from their normal providers, it can also lead to challenges for clinics and providers forced to work with incomplete information while trying to treat someone.
Why It Matters
Data integration and interoperability are increasingly important, especially as patients start to take more control of their own healthcare decisions.
- Patients are increasingly “shopping around” for new providers or facilities where they can get better care or lower costs
- Many patients see more than one provider, especially those with complex or chronic health conditions, and these providers are not always in the same healthcare system
- Providers must be able to coordinate care along the entire spectrum of the healthcare system—primary care, specialty care, pharmacists, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other access points—to avoid medical mistakes
Coordinating information and data is also essential when the next pandemic hits, even if it’s not on the same scale as the current COVID-19 crisis. Many public health experts, infectious disease experts, and epidemiologists agree that it’s not a matter of “if” this happens again, but “when” and “how bad” it will be the next time.
In part two of this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the important steps that clinics of all sizes can take today to increase data sharing capabilities in the future. If you’re ready to move toward integration in your own clinic, talk to AdvancedMD about our full suite of practice management software solutions to get started.