This year can and should be the Year of Health Data Interoperability (HDI). HDI in America has never been more important for the effective and efficient delivery of high quality healthcare. Government agencies and businesses realize that being data driven leads to better decisions and impactful outcomes.
Having data drive healthcare decisions is critical for quality care, and is directly dependent on HDI. While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) long ago committed to improving interoperability of health data, progress has often stalled for a variety of reasons. However, none of the hurdles are insurmountable.
Meanwhile, electronic medical records vendors sometimes make it difficult to get their systems to interoperate for business reasons, while privacy advocates seek to limit the availability of personal health information.
The stakes are high for healthcare data
These reasons and others pale in comparison when the effectiveness of treatment in critical situations is paramount to sustainment and quality of life. Health agencies don’t exist to pick market winners or inhibit healthcare delivery. They exist for the most momentous, life/liberty/happiness-impacting reasons imaginable: Keeping people healthy and providing high-quality care.
To fulfill this mission and meet every emerging public health-related challenge, health agencies need to prioritize data modernization focused on combining data from multiple sources in a standardized and streamlined fashion. They also need new types of solutions and analytical capabilities that function at a high level so they can swiftly access, interconnect and analyze varied health data sources.
In the digital age, this requires HDI to enable data-driven solutions, the ability to assemble and analyze vast quantities of data, and share it with multiple parties securely. A wide-ranging communications protocol called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources can make all of that possible. FHIR contains transport mechanisms, content standards and resources.
Take the first steps to success
Despite all the arguments in favor, adopting HDI remains a daunting undertaking, but you can pave the way with some strategic steps that will prepare your agency for moving forward:
- Treat this effort as a wider customer experience (CX) strategy grounded in a set of human centered design (HCD), intending to improve overall customer service. Ensure the strategy is integrated in an agile fashion with digital transformation and organizational change efforts.
- Take an enterprise-wide data view with a modernization perspective that includes data governance, an associated framework, enterprise data strategy, data policies and standards, and tactical initiatives aimed at removing barriers to data sharing in a streamlined, virtualized fashion.
- Leverage intelligent automation capabilities to put in place state-of-the-art algorithms that are tuned to the business domain to offer custom tailored AI/ML solutions to transform business processes. A use-case based approach enables targeted application of advanced analytics, natural language processing, machine learning, robotic process automation and application programming interface integration.
Push back against anyone who suggests a bolt-on FHIR tool would add an interoperability capability to the existing ecosystem. If you delay undertaking a holistic approach that includes people, process and technology, it will only make demographically driven challenges worse.
We recommend resisting the fragmented approach, as it puts more pressure on an already-strained environment with many subtle touchpoints that create process confusion, and defects that elude detection.
The baby-boomer generation’s growing use of healthcare is swelling the data load, and their demand for better, faster data-driven answers heightens the urgency of interoperability. At the same time, younger Gen Z and millennial cohorts bring their ever-higher expectations for data accessibility and utility, little of which agencies can meet without transformation.
We typically see a fragmented approach that lacks a concerted effort when senior managers are reluctant to embrace a broader. This leaves individual leaders addressing whatever limited HDI aspects that they can control. The antidote to the doomed fragmented approach is this holistic approach that includes a coordinated change management effort.
We recommend resisting the fragmented approach, as it puts more pressure on an already-strained environment with many subtle touchpoints that create process confusion, and defects that elude detection. This approach increases risk, while our recommendations reduce risk and provide cost sensitivity over the longer term of the technology lifecycle.