The unfortunate truth about healthcare interoperability

August 7, 2018
Paige Goodhew Program Manager Product Marketing

Interoperability has become such a pervasive industry buzzword that it’s difficult to know what a company means when they say that they’re interoperable. A recent survey by Healthcare Informatics highlighted why such a straightforward concept has become so convoluted. In the results of the survey, most participants indicated that they feel that their organization is a leader in achieving functional interoperability. However, this organization-centric view highlights exactly why interoperability issues continue to plague the industry.

What does it mean to be “interoperable”?

Think back to when cell phones were beginning to become mainstream. Like me, you probably got your first cell phone and were excited by the prospect of being able to use a phone anywhere that you were instead of having to hope to be home when that important call came through. Like me, you were also probably disappointed the first time that you took that phone to a different city only to discover that it didn’t work or, even worse, it worked but you were unpleasantly surprised with high roaming charges. This is the same state that interoperability is in today.

On all sides of the health IT spectrum, everyone is claiming to be interoperable. But what they’re really claiming is the ability for you to work with the customized method that they’ve made available. An EHR vendor or healthcare organization that considers themselves interoperable isn’t taking into account that the digital health vendors on the other end are selling to multiple healthcare systems that use a variety of EHR vendors. This type of thinking forces each integration project to be point-to-point. In short, they’re all operating their own cell towers instead of working together to build a network.

Think holistically to solve the problem.

To be interoperable as an industry, we should be focusing on building a network between the facilities that provide patient care. It’s important to tie caregivers as closely as possible and, as patient care increasingly extends beyond the four walls of a traditional healthcare provider, enable patients to be active participants in their care. There are countless examples in technology (phone lines, fiber optic internet cables, fintech) and in public goods (roadways, sewer lines, electricity) where we’ve gained more efficiencies by building something that’s designed to be used by everyone. The mission of health IT is to enable technology that benefits the public (patients). In order to do this effectively, we need to first start with building the infrastructure that can be used across the industry, not just the infrastructure for ourselves.

At Redox, we’re working to close the healthcare interoperability gap with a platform designed to serve the entire industry–not the needs of one organization. We call our approach “networked-interoperability”. With one integration project, any healthcare organization or technology vendor can become totally interoperable with any other organization powered by Redox. We don’t believe interoperability should be a buzzword or a product differentiator, it should be a given. At Redox, we’re building the industry-wide infrastructure necessary for this vision to become reality. Once in place, it promises to provide access to data that enables smart and creative thinkers to improve healthcare for all of us.


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