Enter the new age of interoperability

Despite all of the forward momentum, certain sectors of the healthcare industry have been left behind when it comes to interoperability and desperately need to catch up to survive—most of all, those in the post-acute space and HME providers, in particular
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Over the last decade, there has been a huge investment into health information technology. It’s no surprise then that the landscape of HIT has evolved tremendously. In today’s world of HIT, interoperability is the word at the forefront of every practitioner’s mind. Interoperability is the extent to which systems can seamlessly exchange data and interpret and act on that shared data, and it is progressing by leaps and bounds across the care continuum.

Despite all of the forward momentum, certain sectors of the healthcare industry have been left behind when it comes to interoperability and desperately need to catch up to survive—most of all, those in the post-acute space and home medical equipment providers in particular.

While HME providers are certainly playing a game of catch up in the world of HIT, the window to connect to their care ecosystems and improve both patient and business outcomes is open today. As reimbursement challenges continue and the healthcare industry evolves into a system of value, quality-based reimbursement and network care, consider these main reasons why achieving interoperability will support HME providers’ survival in modern healthcare

Streamlined operations

One significant function of interoperability is allowing HME providers to interact in an efficient, timely manner, with both referral sources and patients, using accurate data and records. The automatic flow of data provided by interoperable technology saves time and money, while enhancing operational efficiencies and patient interactions. Immediate access to patient data serves as a powerful tool when recording, tracking and trending data, such as patient vitals and statistics.

This access to data improves the care experience for the patient and their quality of care, and enhances how clinicians interact with them. By removing manual processes from the equation, providers are able to have confidence in their operations and focus on other value-added tasks, ultimately producing better patient outcomes.

Improved reimbursements

Interoperability helps HME providers across the healthcare continuum maintain increased, consistent visibility into a patient’s records, treatments and outcomes. This increased visibility helps to facilitate better patient care, as well as more complete and accurate documentation from the start of a referral. With more clinical and order information, and thorough documentation being submitted to payers, there is potential for vast improvement in multiple aspects of reimbursement.

Strengthened and increased referral relationships

Traditionally, referral relationship strategies have been highly labor-intensive, requiring staff to make countless phone calls or in-person visits. Through electronic collaboration with interoperable technologies, providers are much more attune with their referral sources. Physicians are able and expected to communicate electronically and bi-directionally, and now, HME providers will be able to participate, too.

These modern connections streamline the referral process for both the referral source and provider, which reduces errors and rework, decreases order entry times, and most importantly, strengthens referral relationships. Through interoperability, providers can now be viewed as an integral part of care delivery rather than commodities. The percentage of electronic referrals to HME provideres may be small today, but it is expected to rise significantly over the next few years—and that presents an opportunity for HME providers who quickly embrace interoperability to gain additional market share.

Better facilitation of patient care

Provider organizations certainly share similar goals and quality standards with the rest of the healthcare ecosystem, but how they communicate (or don’t communicate) key information can be very different. With interoperability, that paradigm is changing, because connected organizations are the future.

Having the ability to communicate with other healthcare providers that have or will care for the same patient creates a seamless line of communication that helps ensure all parties are fully up to speed on the patient’s overall care plan, facilitating a better experience for the patient and the provider.

Stay relevant

Referral sources will eventually have a choice to make: do they send referrals to the provider who uses outdated technology or send them to the provider that is able to bi-directionally share accurate, up-to-date information? It won’t be a hard choice for them to make.

Interoperability is key for HME success, and all of the reasons for such success culminate in this: Providers have to innovate to stay relevant in this market, or they run the risk of being left out. Adopting new interoperable technologies will, ultimately, help your business stand out from its “unplugged” counterparts.

Interoperable technologies are impacting the future of healthcare in a big and powerful way, and refusing to embrace such technology is simply not an option. HME providers must have a clear understanding of how they fit into the dynamic healthcare ecosystem, and that includes using a strong technology platform to succeed in this new interconnected world. The HME providers who act now will be well-suited to compete and better serve patients and referral sources, reaping the rewards that early adopters tend to enjoy. The truth is this—providers continuing without interoperable technologies will surely be left behind.

Nick Knowlton is the vice president of strategic initiatives for Brightree, where he leads the company’s approach to healthcare interoperability. Knowlton also co-founded CommonWell Health Alliance and serves in a leadership role.He can be reached at NKnowlton@brightree.com.