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Healthcare data integration is vital to the success of your practice. Employer Health Networks, High Value Networks and Clinical Integrated Networks (CINs) need to share data back and forth to facilitate patient care.

However, there are tremendous variations between practices, hospitals and third parties regarding systems and platforms used for healthcare data sharing and integration. Different networks use different electronic medical records (EMRs), practice management (PM) and patient relationship management (PRM) systems.

Getting different systems to communicate with each other is key to seamless data collection, delivery and sharing. Integration seeks to compatibilize the multitude of data sources, systems and devices for better patient care and practice revenues. It also supports interoperability and direct connections across the industry.

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What Is Healthcare Data?

Healthcare data can include a patient’s medical history, health assessments, diagnoses, treatments, clinical observations, immunization records, imaging reports, lab results and more. Most of that data is both personally identifying information (PII) and personal health information (PHI).

This data is typically a part of records kept by various healthcare providers. If the records get stored and shared in a digital format, they are electronic health records (EHRs). A medical practice keeps these records in private, on-premise servers or in the cloud with security provided by a third-party vendor.

Privacy laws such as HIPAA protect most of this data, requiring limited access and sharing for patient care, with the patient’s permission. An organization has to balance the need for regulatory compliance with the need for accessibility to facilitate patient care.

Patients have an individual right of access to their healthcare data. Labs need to share results with physicians, and physicians need to share records with hospitals. Portability of healthcare information across systems is crucial to keep patient care flowing.

What Is Data Integration in Healthcare?

Healthcare data integration refers to bringing these diverse data sources into one connected system. An integrated system is one that links up the many sources of data in a practice to facilitate a streamlined, accurate data flow. Data integration in healthcare can help you avoid manual data entry and give providers a more detailed view of the patient’s entire picture of health. Integration also supports greater accuracy and a wide range of opportunities, like health information exchanges and clinical integrated networks.

The healthcare sector alone generates about 30% of the world’s data volume, and wrangling all of that information is an ongoing data integration issue. When we connect different sources and create the proper infrastructure, healthcare organizations can better adapt to evolving applications and connectivity requirements. Data integration in healthcare can help you prepare for new technologies, adopt them quickly and stand out as a leading provider.

Integration of healthcare data into a comprehensive system can make your practice run more smoothly. While there are some challenges to connecting different systems and networks for smooth data flows, they are manageable and the benefits are undeniable.

Why Is Data Integration Important in Healthcare?

Interoperability Access Integrate And Exchange

Data integration’s biggest benefits come from the concept of interoperability. Interoperability is a major goal within the healthcare system and the industry’s long and arduous move to the digital world. Now that we have so many ways of collecting data digitally — including software programs, other providers, automated analyses and wearable technology — interoperability is the next step in bringing it all together and solving conventional data integration problems.

Interoperability refers to the ability of diverse systems to access, integrate and exchange data in a cooperative, coordinated way. It spans organizations, regions and nations and helps information move quickly and seamlessly to facilitate improved health overall. An interoperable system might collect data from various specialists to create a complete picture for a primary care physician. It could also help aggregate data to support population health initiatives for a major hospital. Healthcare data integration is a wide-reaching, powerful concept that can help the industry in significant ways.

You may already have several systems in place that can benefit from better accessibility through health data integration:

  • EHRs: EHRs make it possible to keep patient history, diagnoses, doctor notes, lab results and more in a centralized location. Making your EHR compatible with other systems can be the first step toward integration.
  • Practice management software: Integrating practice management software with your EHR and billing department helps to facilitate automation of specific tasks, like collating procedures by diagnostic code for reimbursement.
  • Scheduling platforms: What about matching patients with your practice schedule? Integrating patient engagement systems allows for the handling of repetitive tasks like texted or emailed patient appointment reminders. Linking a portal allows patients to provide updates to their records, like insurance or address information.
  • Data analysis: Integrating multiple data sources gives you a comprehensive data set, establishing a powerful position from which your practice or group can negotiate with payers and service providers. This empowers your providers to make more informed decisions and achieve better patient outcomes, leading to satisfied patients and the potential for monetary incentives.

The applications are practically endless, as data integration can transform the way information flows through your organization.

The Benefits of Healthcare Data Integration

Data integration in healthcare benefits everyone involved, from patients and providers to insurance companies and researchers. Here are just a few of the advantages of healthcare data integration:

  • Improved accuracy: If digitization of your records into an EHR caused duplication, or errors made in a manual system are present, you may have bad data that will need to be cleaned up so your integration can succeed. However, you can clean digital data prior to distribution. The accuracy of your data is key to achieving optimal results for both patients and providers.
  • Better communication between providers: Patients who see their primary care physician, then consult a radiologist, and finally a specialist can end up with gaps in their EHR records if the lab does not have access to share test results. This missing data or “scattered” data can cause issues with patient follow-up care. By integrating internal and external data sources, you can merge and improve the accuracy of your patient records.
  • More informed business decisions: For CINs, integration is crucial for achieving the benefits of population health, business analytics and referral management. By removing bad, duplicate or mismanaged data, you can create a cohesive medical data system that acts as a foundation for every step you take.
  • Fewer delays: Multiple systems, platforms, users and devices can make getting everyone on the same page difficult. Having to postpone an early morning patient procedure because a vital piece of health data is in another location, that does not open for two hours, can frustrate everyone. With integration, data access is instantaneous and secure.

IaaS for Integration

Integration As a Service (IaaS) can remove traditional data integration challenges, like the expenses and labor that building a customized integration for data connections entails. Creating secure, reliable integration of PHI and PII typically requires a large, skilled in-house team, but data Integration As a Service outsources these demands to IT professionals who specialize in the healthcare environment.

Choosing the right IT partner is critical. You need a tested IaaS solution that will keep your incoming and outgoing data accurate, accessible and secure. Built as a hub-and-spoke system, IaaS is a simpler, more affordable, scalable and flexible option. Using IaaS creates a single connection to the cloud-based hub. From this centralized location, you send requests to and receive data from anywhere else.

Using an IaaS solution to connect your EHR, PRM and PM systems and integrate them with every other medical provider and vendor you work with can help you control spending, improve patient satisfaction and fill in the data gaps that can negatively impact patient care.

While IaaS can help you connect with other systems, health data integration as a service can also encompass CINs, order management, quality reporting and other ways you use the information you collect. These solutions can help ensure a fully connected continuum of care and effective data handling between providers and within your practice.

Achieve Interoperability With Happe-Xchange

At Tangible Solutions, we have simplified interoperability with Happe-Xchange, a comprehensive system that integrates data and creates a solid foundation from which you can deploy analytics and patient experience initiatives to maximize revenue and improve patient outcomes.

Whether you are looking to work more efficiently, improve accuracy, enable new technology or meet other goals with healthcare data integration, Tangible can help. Happe-Xchange powers our IaaS, CIN connectivity, order management and other solutions for complete healthcare data integration.

Reach out to us today to learn more about data integration as a service and why so many healthcare organizations trust Happe-Xchange!

Achieve Interoperability With Happe Xchange