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Interoperability now needs to go beyond EHR to include a larger digital health ecosystem

The Covid-19 pandemic has stimulated the development of medical services, so healthcare stakeholders must expand their views on the next phase of interoperability.

Dr. Nick Patel, Chief Digital Officer of Prisma Health Virtual American Telemedicine Association Group on Interoperability The 5th Annual Conference and Expo Thursday-believes that a new phase of interoperability must go beyond EHR to include digital care services and care provided at home.

For example, although patients are increasingly turning to telemedicine, they still need to receive certain services, such as laboratory testing or imaging. Patel says that in these cases, interoperability is the key to ensuring that providers—whether using telemedicine or providing care in person—have the required medical history and patient information.

“It is very important to see how interoperability allows data to flow from one system to another,” he said. This is especially true if the patient travels to a different entity that is not on the same EHR system.

Data flow considerations are not limited to telemedicine. There are others, such as deciding where the data collected from remote patient monitoring devices or wearable devices will be stored and how it will be shared.

“The integrated ecosystem of digital health is equally important [as it is for EHRs],” Patel said. “You must view digital health as a continuum of services related to in-person visits. “

In addition, ensuring safe data sharing can not only improve patient care and experience, but also help providers gain insight into population health trends. In fact, Prisma Health, located in Greenville, South Carolina, is using data collected from wearable devices to support population health dashboards, Patel said. This allows them to more accurately identify patients who need additional support and find the link between their health outcomes and socioeconomic status.

Serkan Kutan, Amwell’s chief technology officer, is also focusing on breaking down silos, making patient data accessible and available for analysis in different care settings.

Because of the sporadic nature of telemedicine-after all, the root of telemedicine lies in emergency care-these visits can be excluded from interoperability work. Kutan said in the panel discussion that this resulted in patients meeting with doctors who had no visiting background. As telemedicine becomes more and more popular, this situation needs to change.

In addition, he said, what happens between patients’ visits is as important as what happens during visits. It is now possible to collect information between visits, but the inability to share it hinders the great potential of analysis.

There have been great developments in interoperability standards and application programming interfaces, which is great, but moving forward requires expanding the focus from the technology itself to the larger ecosystem that supports it. Essentially, stakeholders need to work together.

“The lesson I learned in American healthcare is that there is no magic wand of interoperability,” he said. “It’s all about the ecosystem, it needs a village [to achieve widespread interoperability]. “

Photo: James Bray, Getty Images

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