The healthcare industry is working to adapt to great levels of empowerment and freedom among patients, and the American Enterprise Institute found that there are a number of trends that are driving increased patient choice when it comes to selecting a provider, insurer or treatment option. This has created competition, making the industry sleeker as well as more responsive in the process, but in great need of interoperability.
This era of patient choice has coincided with greater access to electronic health records, digital medical images and a long list of web-enabled tools and data. For patients who do visit a new doctor or seek care with a new provider, ensuring that this information is interoperable is critical for reducing errors, avoiding redundant procedures and ensuring operational efficiency for both parities.
Presently, many barriers exist that make transferring digital patient records from one provider to another difficult. As Dr. John Halamka pointed out in the Healthcare Blog, however, there are efforts underway to make positive changes across the industry.
Here is just a sample of why fluid information exchange is so critical in the face of growing patient choice:
1. Minimizing human error
There are many logistical and financial incentives associated with improved interoperability across providers, but the possibility to improve health outcomes is worth noting. Unless a patient’s EHRs and accompanying images or other pieces of health data are interoperable, there may be paper records and notes that will need to be examined or reviewed by a new doctor. This is an invitation for human error related to misprinted or misread information.
At the same time, patients living with Alzheimer’s or other chronic conditions may not be able to accurately share needs and treatment histories. This challenge demands the fluid integration of health history to ensure the new doctor has all of the information necessary for providing high-quality care.
2. Promoting a strong personal relationship
Patient satisfaction is driving the trend of choice in healthcare, but unfortunately a costly or complicated integration process and create anxiety or friction between a provider and a new patient. With the smooth adoption of data into an existing EHR platform or HIE, a practice can build a positive relationship right from the get-go.
“Patient satisfaction is driving the trend of choice in healthcare.”
This is essential for bringing a new patient into the fold, but can also have a cascading, positive effect as well. Resources like Zoc Doc make it essential for a practice to have a strong, inviting reputation.
Becoming the provider that most easily integrates new patients can lead to new business. At the same time, great patient volume only underscores the importance of fluid information exchange and the ability to easily consolidate patient data.
3. Overcoming barriers related to standardization efforts
The Center for Medical Interoperability reported that seemingly trivial things such as vocabulary and documentation practices can create issues when accessing and making sense of new patient data. Even when a patient’s health history is accessible, the way the information is presented and described can be confusing for a new doctor or administrator.
Efforts related to the standardization of medical data will likely include expectations for not only how information is coded but also the vernacular used in a user-facing interface, according to the CMI. In that way, both computers and humans can make sense of a new patient’s digital records.
4. Reducing administrative overhead
Assimilating a new patient’s health history in the absence of any interoperability measures can create a massive headache for administrators. Until it becomes possible to transfer the entirety of an EHR digitally, there will be a certain amount of data that requires manual input. Not only might this be an invitation for errors, but it requires a certain amount of time and effort in an age where high-value tasks are especially critical.
Aside from inputting health data such as previous medications or even simple demographics, the interoperability of medical images is also essential. Otherwise repeat procedures can be expensive, time consuming and increase patients’ exposure to somewhat hazardous treatments.
5. Reigning in costs
For providers, safely integrating new patients is of the utmost concern, but fluid information exchange also has serious importance when it comes to a sustainable bottom line. As stated above, there can be a number of steps related to incorporating even one new patient, many of which can be time-consuming or expensive to achieve. For example, a repeat CAT scan or similar procedure may have brought in money in the past, but in an era of value-based care, this could end up representing a cost to a provider.
If the healthcare industry can support patients in moving between practices smoothly and without hassle, providers may be able to avoid exorbitant costs. At the same time, it will become easier and more viable to accept higher patient volumes. This too will have a positive impact on operational costs and a provider’s revenue cycle management.