Hospital associations propose plan for interoperability

The American Hospital Association and six other hospital groups have teamed up to promote interoperability across the healthcare industry. The industry associations released a six-point national agenda outlining how hospitals can achieve interoperability, stating that “the time is now” to work on these efforts.

Interoperability is one of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry, prohibiting healthcare organizations and different provider types to communicate and coordinate care easily. Efforts to improve interoperability are promising, but the network is still a “patchwork system,” according to the AHA.

“We are inching closer to, but still short of, the ideal of seamless interoperability,” the agenda reads. “In healthcare, this refers to the capacity to send and receive a patient’s health information from multiple sources between different systems and locations with its integrity intact.”

Interoperable health records would allow strengthened care coordination across care settings; improve safety and quality; empower patients and families; increase efficiencies and reduce costs; and create robust public health registries.

Here are the six pathways in the agenda:

  1. Security and privacy––shared data must be accurate, secure and used in accordance with best practices and patient expectations. Security and privacy requirements must be embedded into every layer of the infrastructure.
  2. Efficient, usable solutions––Data needs to be in a useful format and be available, and systems supporting data exchange must also support accurate patient matching.
  3. Cost-effective, enhanced infrastructure––Information-sharing networks must be secure, cost-effective, accessible and updated over time, requiring consistent use of standards, semantics and a common set of “rules of the road” for exchange.
  4. Standards that work––Improved and new standards for connected systems that are used consistently to minimize proprietary solutions and gatekeeping are required.
  5. Connecting beyond health records––Interoperable systems must expand reach of information sharing to support population health, address social determinants of health and facilitate remote monitoring and patient-generated data.
  6. Shared best practices––Information sharing needs to be expanded, with stakeholders sharing best practices to build on what works.

With this agenda in mind, the hospital associations are hoping hospitals and other healthcare organizations will meet the numerous challenges to comprehensive interoperability.

“The movement toward true, national interoperability has been underway for some time,” the agenda concluded. “As national hospital associations, we are united in our conviction that it is time to finish the job and grant all patients the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their healthcare decisions are based on the best and most complete information possible.”