Looking past the EMR: The urgent need for operational interoperability
As healthcare organizations seek to redefine patient data management, they want to achieve benefits from embracing operational efficiency and interoperable systems.
Adoption of technology in healthcare, particularly electronic medical records systems, has transformed patient data management. It’s also led to an overemphasis on the electronic record at the expense of operational technology.
While EMRs are vital for billing and clinical documentation, these systems aren’t designed for interoperability with facilities and providers outside their networks and – more importantly – don't sufficiently address operational inefficiencies, capacity management and patient flow.
The focus on EMRs is often linked to its substantial cost and the false notion that such a hefty investment should address multiple needs of the hospital or health system. This over-reliance on the EMR has resulted in a closed ecosystem that stifles innovation and expansion. Although EMRs try to manage operational needs through workarounds, using an expensive Swiss Army knife-esque tool shouldn’t be the answer when more effective, purpose-built alternatives exist.
Achieving operational interoperability
Operational interoperability broadens the approach to healthcare technology by extending clinical expertise throughout the community, no matter the EMR system. The future of true operational interoperability and efficiency lies in interoperable visibility. We need a shift in how hospitals and health systems improve capacity management, patient flow and staff workflow support. True interoperable visibility should span across owned, affiliated and non-affiliated facilities, benefiting health systems, caregivers and patients.
As healthcare institutions evolve from independent hospitals to health systems and then into comprehensive market networks, the need for operational systems that work across different EMRs is crucial. EMRs provide visibility where installed, but they normally don't span affiliated or partner facilities. Much like how e-commerce has flourished by seamlessly connecting multiple sellers, buyers and even different marketplaces, healthcare needs similar connectivity and operational efficiency.
The era of large, multi-dimensional health systems demands system-wide visibility to capacity, centralized placement and predictive-demand visualization. Operational interoperability, shared visibility across all care settings and data-driven processes for improvement are necessary. Understanding patient flows optimizes load balancing and increases market share.
Rethinking operational technology provides possible solutions. These include improving operational visibility, optimizing staff workflows, enhancing quality of care and strengthening financial performance, regardless of the EMR system in use. This paradigm shift ushers in a deeper understanding of workflow management that's firmly rooted in operational efficiency.
Real-time analytics offer a threefold advantage: they provide hindsight to learn from past experiences, insight to swiftly respond to present situations, and foresight through predictive analytics to anticipate future trends.
EMRs are fundamental to healthcare, but they shouldn't monopolize health technology development and adoption. A change in focus towards operational technology and interoperability is no longer optional. It's a necessity dictated by the evolving dynamics of the healthcare sector.
Much like the financial world has adopted technologies for seamless operations, it's time healthcare embraces the same level of integration and efficiency. Drawing insights from real-time analytics, optimizing workflows, and implementing interoperable systems is the pragmatic path forward. This shift won't just improve operations, it will set the stage for a more efficient, patient-centric healthcare system. This isn't a lofty aspiration, but a strategic requirement for healthcare's future especially as care delivery becomes increasingly fragmented.
Michael Coen is chief technology officer of TeleTracking Technologies.