I joined the interoperability team at Philips Healthcare in my senior year of college. At that point of time, with a novice approach to software engineering and a look at real world problems with my rose-tinted glasses, interoperability seemed a bit dull. Until, one day I fell off the stairs and had to go through X-rays and six weeks of physiotherapy on my way to recovery. This is when I had a first-hand glance at hospital operations.
Source: Instagram @newyorkercartoons
As I crippled my way to the doctor’s office up and down the stairs several times, I realized what I work on everyday is what was needed here.
How could have interoperability helped me?
Interoperability, simply, is SEND -> RECEIVE -> FIND -> USE.
Let’s imagine the above situation with interconnected systems – I would register myself at the front desk, and would book an appointment with the doctor. The doctor would recommend an X-ray. I would walk to the X-Ray lab and the technicians would already have all the information that they need to know. I would get an X-ray, walk back to the doctor’s room and the doctor would see the scan on the monitor. All I did was register myself at the front desk and the rest was taken care of by the systems that can talk to each other aka, interoperable systems.
This was also an early years agenda by ONC(Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) for the hospitals to start adapting to the concept. For instance, the Argonaut project was launched to develop a FHIR based application programming interface and define core data specification. Apple Health based on the Argonaut project, is making healthcare information accessible to 200 million people and their doctors, and has a growing client base of 100+ hospital
Philips bed site monitors were early adapters of interoperability with the help of Philips’ IntelliBridge Enterprise(IBE).
The 21st century definition of interoperability
Healthcare systems are flooded with crucial information, but limitations in utilizing that data turns it useless. Today, efficiency in healthcare interoperability is not just determined by the ability to share data, but by the level to which it enables us to understand the patient. If even one life is saved because of a provider having access to all the crucial data needed to understand the medical history of the patient and take necessary steps, that is when true success in interoperability is achieved. Rest every other metric used to gauge the success of interoperability is a mere paperwork. Thus, the
Use Information to Improve Health Care Quality and Lower Cost six year agenda by ONC.
It also laid down the basis for a secure, timely and reliable exchange of information with interoperability.
80% of hospitals can electronically query other organizations for health information. Hospitals automatically send an electronic notification and care summary to primary care providers when their patients are discharged. This is possible because of continuous work done by healthcare vendors
Philips HealthSuite Digital Platforms is one such example of connected, secure, reliable continuous care. Philips IntelliSpace Precision Medicine leverages HSDP to curate personalize care plans for patients, empowered by IBE.
IntelliSpace Epidemiology, launched in HIMSS this year, is the only decision-support solution in the U.S. that combines clinical informatics and genomic sequencing information from pathogenic bacteria, aiming to efficiently assist infection control prevention teams in identifying infection transmissions, is also empowered by interoperability.
What does the future hold?
Improvement in information sharing at all levels of public health, and research will better generate evidence that is delivered to the point of care. Advanced, more functional technical tools will enable innovation and broader uses of health information to further support health research and public health. The ONC has finally gotten around to proposing a rule that defines activities that do not count as information blocking by Health IT systems – the 21st century Cure’s Act. The second draft of ONC’s TEFCA(Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement) supports network-network health data exchange on a national level, the goals of TEFCA are well-intentioned. ONC recognizes that the private sector is critical to promoting interoperability with their idea of limiting the burden of operationalizing the common agreement to QHINS or the Qualified Health Information Networks.
And the one thing we are already seeing is more implementation of secure patient-centric APIs.
“To make a seamless experience in healthcare happen, a lot of different technologies need to come together, “There’s no one technology that’s going to do everything”, making standardization key- Karen Appelbaum, executive director of enterprise access operations and technology at Providence St. Joseph Health .
These are the building blocks of a learning health system and ONC’s long term agenda.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, the amount of time Americans spend tracking their health habits is second only to the time they spend surfing the web. Patient’s will be the catalyst that solve the interoperability challenge. There are over 325,000 healthcare apps, wearable sensors, fitness bands, sleep tracking tools, habit tracking apps and patients are becoming active participants in managing their own health.
Interoperability at the patient’s fingertips, along with the relevant decision support tools and layers of AI that can extract actionable health insights, will reduce the probability of treatment conflicts between various providers
Philips wearable biosensor for vital-signs monitoring is one such example where care is managed by the patient at the ease of his or her home, reducing hospitalization costs, bed cost for the hospitals and as it is interoperable the care-provider gets regular information on patient’s condition and gets notification when intervention is needed.
The future looks bright, and hopeful with public and private sector coming together and relaxation in the laws, lucrative monetary incentives, roll out of frameworks that are easier to adapt and ensure trust. Over the years, as a recurring participant in IHE Connectathon and having had to build showcased solutions for HIMSS, I have observed that the clinical workflows have more or less remain the same, it is the interconnectedness that has evolved, with technology, for the good.
On a side note, as we take a look back at HIMSS 2019, the talk about interoperability has reduced in ten years, but we are still not there
Disclaimer :- This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
Ritika Jain A regular at IHE Connectathon and HIMSS, with 5 years of differentiated experience as integration consultant and engineer with Philips Healthcare. Drives innovation and technical competence across the team, and solution discussions with cross-functional team across Philips globally. Skilled in HealthTech, Healthcare Interoperability, and Software Design. LinkedIn@HCITExpertWebsite
Vakku Chethalan Experienced Product Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Drives & maintains Product roadmap activities, strategy, product releases and liaison with every cross-functional teams. Skilled in Healthcare, Interoperability for Healthcare OnPremise and Cloud, Software Architecture, and Embedded Software. LinkedIn@HCITExpertWebsite