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Advantage: Interoperability

May 22, 2018
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I recently had a conversation with a relative regarding several health issues they were having.  The person happens to live in an area served by several healthcare entities.  However, it seems as if there are a number of physician groups that are not direct members of any of the healthcare entities.  The net result is a lack of coordination amongst the physicians and healthcare providers.

Case in point:  my relative has had some intestinal issues that resulted in a colonoscopy procedure being performed.  While they received some feedback following the procedure, a final report has not been forthcoming – short of a scheduled office visit.  There is no healthcare entity patient portal where this can be regularly checked, leading to patient anxiety. 

In another example, my relative has been on diabetic medication for a number of years.  While prescribed by one physician, the patient was advised to stop taking the medication due to the intestinal issues.  They are uncomfortable that the prescribing physician is aware this medication has been stopped.

The net effect: it’s like the old saying “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing!”  I truly believe this is the case in this environment.  There does not appear to be any coordination among physician groups, and the groups appear to be independent groups that do not readily share information between them. 

This all seems counter to the direction healthcare is taking in the form of population health management and value-based care.  Contrast this to my healthcare environment.  There are several major healthcare providers in the region, and they all are on the same vendor’s electronic health record (EHR) system (albeit separate instances). 

Looking back at the way several of my past health issues have been dealt with is in stark contrast to my relative’s situation.  For example, several years ago I had robotic surgery for a benign thymic cyst removal.  The evening prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist called to discuss the procedure.  They not only had information from my history with the health system, they also had access to information from a prior procedure at a competing healthcare system that was helpful to the anesthesiologist’s planning. 

Since my healthcare provider employs a number of clinical specialists, any time I am referred to one of them, they have full access to my chart, such as when I needed to see an orthopedist for a steroid injection in my knee.  Short of access to images, I am able to see all my healthcare procedure results by accessing the health system’s patient portal (including email notification when the results are available).  This came in handy recently when I needed access to my latest ophthalmologist’s eye prescription, which was part of my record. 

It seems as if my relative’s healthcare environment is still in the 20th century, and severely lacks the interoperability that I enjoy in my healthcare system.  As a healthcare professional, this is somewhat frustrating to know that the healthcare being provided to my relative is not as coordinated as what I have access to.  As a result, patient anxiety is higher due to the lack of coordination among providers, and a lack of results accessibility.

Perhaps for the healthy individual this is not an issue.  But once a health issue arises, I would rather deal with it in the environment I am in, versus that of my relative.  And, I attribute a great deal of that difference to the benefits of interoperability!  As noted, this applies to both within my healthcare system, as well as between health systems due to their ability to share information.

 

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