In healthcare, communication is everything. When physicians, lab technicians and administrators can easily share information across and between organizations, the likelihood of positive health outcomes increases.

A bi-directional interface facilitates the seamless transfer of patient data from labs, clinics, hospitals and state registries. Importantly, bi-directional functionality eliminates the need for manual data transfers and significantly reduces the rate of errors caused by out-of-date or out-of-sync information. Patients moving between healthcare providers can have peace of mind, knowing their personal health data is always available via secure lines of communication.

YOUNG SCIENTIST WORKS IN MODERN BIOLOGICAL LABBi-directional interfaces reduce the number of redundant data transfers.

Bi-directional interfaces support mobility of patient data

At the end of the 20th century, the U.S. government signed into law The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The law paved the way for easier patient data sharing via electronic health records. In those early days of the internet, many patients were afraid their data would fall into the wrong hands. Since then, patient attitudes have shifted dramatically, as more personal information has come to exist solely in digital form. While data security is still a primary concern, patients are much more open to having their medical information available to their entire care team in times of medical need.

On the physician side of things, the mobility of patient data can keep doctors engaged at work. A 2017 study conducted by the Studer Group found that 51 percent of physicians are burned out, an 11 percent increase from a 2013 survey. Increasing administrative burden is a driving factor of burn out. Organizations that use uni-directional interfaces put their physicians at an extreme disadvantage, which can lead to more burnout.

If a physician works with uni-directional interfaces to correspond with a lab, he or she is essentially working in an asynchronous environment. It’s like playing chess over the mail – the game can still be played, but it will take a long time, and the data available to each player will never be in sync. In the world of healthcare, this kind of information lag could spell trouble for patients. A bi-directional system is like playing chess in real time: Each player has the same data available at all times. By keeping everyone on the same page, there is less room for error.

Enhanced communication reduces unnecessary inpatient lab orders

For years, laboratory professionals have looked for ways to reduce the number of unnecessary lab test orders. The Choose Wisely initiative, a project sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine and The American Society for Clinical Pathology, aims to curb waste in the healthcare system. A meta-analysis of the initiative, published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, showed that strategic interventions and policy assessments reduce unnecessary test orders by 11 percent. One organization was able to lower its annualized daily order volume from 25,000 to 10,000 over 33 months.

“Strategic interventions and policy assessments reduce unnecessary lab orders by 11%.”

Bi-directional interfaces support these effects by eliminating the need for redundant data transfers. When each stakeholder – whether that be a care provider or a lab technician – has access to the most up-to-date information, errors can be identified more quickly and resolved in a timely manner. By eliminating errors during the ordering process, labs are less likely to mislabel specimens. Furthermore, an integrated system shortens wait times, allowing patients to access their results via a patient portal and read the information prior to going over it with a physician.

Interoperability improves value-based outcomes

Bi-directional interfaces and the HL7 standard are integral to the interoperability of health data systems. As described by HIT expert Dave Newman, interface engines act as a nerve center, routing data among threads between multiple healthcare organizations. Without these technologies, data arriving at one organization from another would be incompatible. This incredible technology makes it possible for providers, labs, registries and pharmacies to share data without worrying about the integrity of the data. It will always be consistent.

Interoperability is at the core of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ efforts to standardize EHR systems. Meaningful Use requirements are designed to make healthcare providers a part of a seamless, nationwide system of health information. This effort is very important to patient health. After all, patients aren’t always near their primary care providers when illness or injury strikes. If patients are far from home when they need to see a provider, it shouldn’t take days for their data to arrive. To save lives and improve outcomes, that data needs to be available and actionable immediately. Bi-directional interfaces make that possible.

On a smaller scale, bi-directional order management streamlines process, increases productivity and controls costs. These benefits add up to a safer, more efficient patient experience. And when patient experience metrics improve, there will be many more opportunities to increase patient satisfaction rates. Everything is connected, which is the basic principle of interoperability. No single effort or policy change will drastically improve patient outcomes. However, an orchestrated effort to improve processes across an organization can have a positive impact on total patient outcome metrics.

Maintaining a health data system that values interoperability is a resource-intensive challenge – and it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Organizations must also invest in physician and patient engagement solutions to see more opportunities for improving outcomes. When all of your organization’s solutions work together, there’s less risk of error. Plus, resource optimization can help financial stakeholders control costs.

To learn more about how to get these benefits at your organization, connect with an expert at Tangible Solutions today.