• Nitin Gujral

Interconnectivity Is the New Interoperability

Healthcare spending in the U.S. currently accounts for nearly 18 percent of the GDP (Ref1). Being such a large part of our everyday lives, healthcare as a product and service has experienced many advances in leveraging information technology over the few decades. However, such I.T. infrastructures are very much siloed across healthcare for managing patient care between providers, patients and payers. The technology solutions currently cater to the specific needs of the stakeholders, for instance:

  • A provider organization needing to manage patient charts and billing

  • Payers needing to process claims, and for risk management of contracts with employers

Traditional information systems are not well connected to coordinate care for a patient. Inefficiencies in how data is used and accessed by healthcare organizations unfortunately manifests with uneven privacy and security considerations. With the push toward making healthcare “smart” and in delivering targeted healthcare, we need to look beyond solely sharing data to find greater efficiencies, workflow collaboration, and ultimately more satisfied patients and providers. There is a need to support omni-channel, real-time interactions across care teams and patients:

At Dock, we believe the answer is interconnectivity.

Value and Limitations of Interoperability

With the goal of sharing data to improve care coordination for patient care and with push from initiatives such as Meaningful Use as part of the HITECH Act, many information technology solutions including the Electronic Medical Records and Health Information Exchange were formed. Such initiatives were successful in getting population healthcare insights, but they didn’t have much impact around the need for care coordination as teams lacked an easy way to collaborate within or outside their organizations or with patients.

Additionally, there have been major advancements and greater collaboration among healthcare stakeholders in developing health data representations and exchange standards like FHIR and SMART. The adoption of such interoperability standards across healthcare institutions and major health IT solution providers is a promising foundation that has enabled seamless transfer of data between care providers, caregivers, and patients. Despite these successes, Interoperability on its own won’t address the disparate coordination and transparency challenges of healthcare.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in adoption of digital health solutions that have leveraged traditional data sets via interoperability, along with smart devices to provide better tracking, insights around specific care needs. e.g. a smart watch delivering targeted insight for exercise or sleep at appropriate times to a user to take action based on patient’s past health information. Healthcare providers have embraced digital transformation to improve care delivery, however there are several barriers in sharing actionable information across teams and with patients. The categorical response from the healthcare’s industry to the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated telemedicine adoption and illuminated its value proposition, as well as the need for coordinating care and maintaining care standards across clunky systems and entities.

The Next Era: Interconnectivity

In order to deconstruct traditional information silos and even new ones that are being formed with new digital health solutions, we need seamless connectivity of data and actions to flow across these varied and uncommunicative systems that each play a meaningful role for the care teams and patients. Silos of disparate datasets exist everywhere in healthcare: the EHR, the HIE, provider directories, member populations, websites (.gov, .org), formularies, treatment protocols, etc. Individually each holder of data can talk to another, but none talk to all. Interoperability is laudable and useful, but it is incomplete. We should think bigger.

In prior blogs, we at Dock Health discussed a couple of our core beliefs: “we are all providers,” and “everything in healthcare is a task.” We view all members of the team to be important contributors to getting healthcare done. It takes a diverse team of professionals, from the front desk staff, to the medical assistants, pharmacists, care coordinators, mid-level providers and physicians, to ensure patients receive excellent medical care.

We believe that tasks are the actionable units of healthcare. It is at the individual task level that healthcare gets done. Interconnectivity is one such solution that can deliver actionable tasks by addressing the requirements of real time, secure information exchange and communication across stakeholders. Such a solution can easily connect one stakeholder with another around a patient with rich context for the patient’s care needs.

Data-driven insights leveraging analytics, machine-learning and precision medicine can be relayed to patients and across teams, departments and even facilities through an interconnected platform. It can connect multi-disciplinary teams within an organization or connect teams from disparate organizations. Leveraging open interoperability standards and open APIs, such an interconnected platform and ecosystem can easily integrate with traditional health systems and enable upcoming new digital health solutions to leverage the power of interconnectivity.

Actionable Tasks

Interconnectivity is the place where all silos that contribute to healthcare delivery are connected, not just able to share data bi-directionally. They are connected by the actionable units of healthcare, not just static information stored in a warehouse.

Those actionable units are tasks that are in the context of a patient, the care path of that patient, and shared across a FHIR enabled platform. Interconnectivity completes interoperability.

Just like digital consumer products, healthcare needs to be delivered via always-on, anytime-use solutions for collaboration that flow seamlessly within and between players in the ecosystem. Interconnectivity across healthcare can be enabled via actionable tasks. Actionable implies “intent and data that’s shared across stakeholders making it invaluable because it leads to collaboration.”

An interconnectivity platform will support such actionable tasks to be generated automatically based on existing care events (appointment scheduling, medical orders, communication) or on-demand as per the care team or patient needs. Security and privacy are foundational for such an interconnectivity platform to process actionable tasks across stakeholders. Being able to deliver such actions across multiple channels that stakeholders in healthcare use including email, SMS, electronic medical record (EMR), secure communication, and others, will significantly improve engagement. Actionable tasks also have the potential to optimize and promote standards of care.

Breaking Barriers

Leveraging an interconnectivity platform, will break barriers for intents/actions, data, and insights to travel across healthcare entities thereby facilitating collaboration, transparency and speed of delivering care. Interconnectivity will also result in delivering better user experience as users can leverage the interface of their choice (a smartphone app, an embedded experience in their EMR or digital solution, email, secure messaging app, and so forth). Patient involvement in this collaboration with care providers will result in improved healthcare outcomes.

Interoperability has been a huge step forward in breaking silos of healthcare data locked up in traditional infrastructures and in enabling standardized mechanisms for stakeholders to access health information. Realizing the potential of smart and interconnected healthcare, a new era of interconnectivity purveyors on the horizon that will deliver actions and insights across care providers and patients via actionable tasks, and enabling coordination across disparate systems and teams. Only then will we optimize efficiencies and workflow for best-in-class healthcare delivery.


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