It’s no secret the healthcare field is constantly changing. In fact, the rate of change is likely to accelerate when meaningful use stage 2 (expected to be implemented in 2013) and stage 3 (expected to be implemented in 2015) come into full play. Facilities and practitioners who regard themselves as discrete entities are going to find themselves forced to cooperate and communicate. Without advance preparation, the change may prove to be a nightmare.
Healthcare IT departments are gathering all available data on interoperability between and among devices, computerized patient records, and diagnostic testing. Meaningful use of this technology promotes the flow of information among healthcare facilities that may use different computer systems. Developing and implementing seamless interfaces is central to successful collaboration while safeguarding patients’ well-being.
Computer systems and diagnostic equipment, for example, are going to require a high degree of interoperability. Suppose a patient undergoes testing and the results are converted into a computerized image at his local clinic. The designated diagnostician is located on the opposite side of the country in a facility using an entirely different computer system. Well-designed interfaces facilitate the transmission of the patient’s data from one coast the other. The diagnostician receives the test results or images, arrives at a course of treatment, and relays his or her instructions back to the patient’s local healthcare practitioner the same day.
Telemedicine strategies like this have been widely used in remote and medically underserved communities for years. Their meaningful use will become more apparent as better cost effectiveness and efficiency acquire more importance. American society has always been mobile, its people often relocating several times during their lives. In addition to furniture, appliances, and the family dog, medical records have been carried from one city hospital to another. Unfortunately, boxes and envelopes sometimes go missing. When a health emergency arises, redundant medical testing is required and an extensive medical profile has to be rebuilt. The solution is national healthcare IT integration allowing a nearly instantaneous transfer of patient records from one health system to another.
Healthcare IT interoperability isn’t about technology ultimately. It is really about helping healthcare professionals record and maintain their patients’ data, aiding doctors in requesting tests and interpreting results, promoting accurate billing in the business office, and tabulating demographic information for federal funding entities. The various pieces of the puzzle need to fit together and talk to one another if high-quality patient care is to be achieved.