Transforming Patient Care with EHR Integration

The one term that you get to hear very often in healthcare settings is Electronic Health Record (EHR), a digital version of a patient’s report. Created in real-time, EHR makes patient information easily accessible to authorized users in a secure manner. For efficient use and management of EHRs, healthcare organizations are now relying on EHR integration. 

Given the rigors and stress associated with healthcare, the need for automation solutions is increasing. There are several administrative tasks such as processing billing requests and appointment scheduling too other than delivering care to patients. The paperwork piles up over a period of time leaving healthcare professionals struggling with heaps of unstructured data. The need for an integrated healthcare information system is constantly being felt to bring structure and efficiency to the managed care continuum. This is where EHR comes into play. 

EHR integration helps address multiple care concerns in one go and allows patients to receive care from convenient healthcare organizations and services. Such is its demand that the global electronic health records market now stands at USD 26.8 billion1 in 2020 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 3.7% from 2021 to 2028.

Even those organizations wanting to implement a direct-to-consumer telehealth solution are now looking for ways to have a successful EHR integration. Modern patients now place equal emphasis on convenience as they do on quality and cost. In this modern age of consumerism, the focus is now on delivering complete care to patients while streamlining workflows. The pandemic has also given telehealth a solid boost and many view it as a valuable means for seeking healthcare. 

All in all, there’s a lot happening on the healthcare front and the one thing that will greatly alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems is EHR integration.

The many benefits of EHR

Those in healthcare would agree documentation offers enormous scope for efficiency. EHR enables healthcare organizations to maintain structured data while keeping a tab on the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ aspects of clinical data. It offers several benefits some of which include:

  • It minimizes workload and helps provide integrated patient care
  • It provides integrated data that is easily accessible to authorized users 
  • It minimizes errors and facilitates better management of all records
  • It can even recommend medication based on past records and insights collected from multiple sources
  • It ensures quick and efficient electronic data exchange that allows better communication and leads to more fruitful interactions 
  • It reduces waiting times by providing patients access to integrated healthcare online
  • It improves collaboration between different stakeholders while ensuring better patient engagement

You may choose appropriate tools to integrate data from local or other data sources within a private cloud or local network to ensure successful EHR integration. There are other cloud-based solutions as well that you may want to consider. These are integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) that integrate data from diverse sources including web-based streaming data sources and standard databases offering an efficient, cost-effective means to EHR integration.

There are proprietary tools too that are often customized to be used for specific business purposes and are usually stable and reliable. Those who wish to have complete control on their data in-house but do not want to use proprietary and expensive enterprise integrated healthcare solutions, often opt for open-source tools.

EHR integration challenges

Now that we know the benefits of EHR integration and ways to achieve it, you will still need to cross the many hurdles that could stand in your way. It is important to figure out strategies to overcome the challenges and ensure your EHR integration actually delivers value.

Let’s delve deeper to understand the important ones.

Interoperability – While attaining it may seem like a herculean task, it remains a top area for improvement considering that organizations experience interoperability-related challenges at multiple levels. The number of connected devices continues to grow necessitating data security measures for a satisfactory user experience. While compiling and integrating data, HIPAA compliance needs to be factored in regardless of the diversity of data and data sizes. Data standardization is therefore necessary or else you will continue to struggle with the different data silos that come with interoperability challenges. There has to be a collaboration between external and internal parties such as quote providers and EHR vendors like Epic, Allscripts, and Cerner where they agree upon a common set of standards to address these challenges.

Data security – Data sharing can often be a cause of concern as it may lead to a breach in data security. Organizations are now leveraging cloud computing to manage data silos and ensure strict governance pertaining to data security. Access to specific data is provided for specific durations while being HIPAA compliant at all times.

HL7 integration – IT teams often struggle to keep pace with healthcare professionals who are usually too tied up to work in collaboration. This can delay HL7 integration. IT groups use the HL7 interface to process data in an easy-to-interpret format. But due to delays and gaps in coordination and collaboration, assembling the critical interfaces as per the HL7 standards becomes extremely challenging. Poor HL7 integration semantics can cause distorted data and migrating to a new EHR may result in the loss of some amount of previous data such as the medical history of patients.

Get ready for some groundwork

Although EHR integration does get complicated at times, there are simple and effective ways to overcome the challenges. We have new technologies to help us improve clinician experiences. You need to analyze your objectives, ensure timelines, and review the current technological state of your organization. You also need to document the current state and identify the gaps before you set out on your EHR integration journey.

Data documentation and gap analysis are in fact crucial milestones you need to touch on to make any further progress on this road. You must evaluate data architecture and assess workflows to devise a new data delivery design. You must also define testing phases to authenticate composite and designed workflows before the actual go-live.

It’s always a good idea to involve the teams that are going to use the EHR. How one professional uses it can be completely different than how others use it and can have an impact on their work too. Merely changing the system is of no use unless all users align to the changes and know how to comply with the correct and standard workflow.

Last but not the least, make sure you have technical support every step of the way. The technology landscape is evolving so rapidly that some technologies and use cases are maturing rather quickly. Onsite EHR go-live support is a great way of staying abreast of new technologies and ensuring a successful EHR integration.

Telehealth integration

As per a recent survey, 86% of doctors said the rise of telehealth increased their interoperability and integration challenges while more than 30% of doctors think the lack of integration with the EHR is an important reason why they may abandon telehealth after the pandemic. Microsoft announced its alliance with Epic Systems not long ago to help users with an integrated Teams experience within EHR clinical workflows. Considering that the Forrester survey findings have also pointed towards poor integration between virtual visit solutions and EHR workflows as a major deterrent, the said partnership aims to hopefully iron out issues and add value.

As the demand for telehealth continues, it makes sense to integrate it into the EHR system to optimize clinical workflows. The more recent telehealth solutions can be easily integrated into common EHR systems to ensure quality care and enhance interoperability. The merging of these capabilities is enabling organizations to provide patient care through a single workflow.

An integrated telehealth solution makes the whole experience akin to an actual visit to the clinic. It helps patients as well as care providers and reduces the clinician burden. It eases documentation for healthcare providers while saving patients a considerable amount of travel time.

David West, MD, medical director of health informatics at Nemours Children’s Health System confirms, “It’s opened up a great opportunity to be more consumer-centric, to understand the kind of inconvenience and difficulty that even coming to the clinic sometimes brings to families.”

Improve care delivery with Trigent

At Trigent, we hope to create a connected ecosystem for you where patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers can rely on electronic health records for better care coordination. Our domain expertise allows us to work closely with healthcare stakeholders to alleviate interoperability issues, reduce clinician burden, and improve efficiencies.

EHR integration is an important decision and our team of experts would be more than happy to help you create the roadmap for its success and deliver care in more meaningful ways.

Call us today to book a consultation.

References

  1. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/electronic-health-records-ehr-market

FHIR – The Winning Edge for Successful Patient Engagement

The emergence of new technologies has brought along opportunities as well as challenges. Their proliferation into the world of healthcare has left professionals grappling with changing regulations, interoperability issues, and loads and loads of inconsistent, unstructured data.

We are up for a significant shift, and Gartner expects 35% of healthcare delivery organizations to have shifted workflows outside the EHR to pursue better efficiency, experience, and outcomes by 2023. We need ways to weave patient data into the healthcare fabric seamlessly. The one issue that we continue to experience repeatedly is interoperability with a sea of wearable devices, further adding to the chaos.

Even bigger organizations are constantly updating their technology landscape to keep up with changing times and demands. Lyniate, the enterprise known for its leading interoperability solutions, recently announced the acquisition of Datica Integrate and the launch of its new cloud-hosted fully managed data integration solution, Lyniate Envoy.

Erkan Akyuz, chief executive officer at Lyniate elaborating on the acquisition, says, “Our acquisition of Datica Integrate extends our customers’ ability to effortlessly connect and aggregate the data from multiple systems of record through FHIR. This is critical because as regulatory compliance continues to drive global industry trends, healthcare organizations will need adaptive integration support that will complement standards from HL7.”

Health stakeholders are now pinning their hopes on Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to tide over interoperability and data-sharing challenges. FHIR serves as the bridge to patient information, claims, medical records, and all such things required regularly to make accurate clinical choices and deliver quality care.

FHIR works incredibly well for clinicians and patients and has their back with seamless, on-demand information exchange. In a day and age when we want data to communicate and converse with each other – be it from hospitals, clinics, patient portals, databases, and insurance plans – some kind of standardization is necessary to establish a solid ground for dialogue and exchange. FHIR is this ground that nurtures best practice standards and raises the bar for patient engagement.

So let’s look at its role critically and understand why it holds the key to patient engagement and much more.

FHIR is omnipresent

Just about everyone agrees on the tangible benefits FHIR offers to the world of healthcare. Everyone from healthcare vendors to federal organizations that need to share and exchange clinical information regularly relies on it. FHIR enables a cohesive healthcare customer experience by helping them provide consistent interoperability and patient-focused, data-driven care.

FHIR removes the gaps in an information exchange system and uses standardized APIs instead of creating plug-and-play applications. These applications can be easily plugged into any EHR to allow users to access information without sifting through large data volumes. This applies to accessing concrete details too, be it about a patient or a treatment.

FHIR also helps patients connect with healthcare service providers without making them go through a bunch of portals. In 2020, the global wearable medical devices market was worth USD 16.6 billion, continuing to grow in the coming years. A CAGR of 26.8% from 2021 to 2028 highlights the increasing focus on fitness and a need to monitor health and lifestyle habits at all times.

Expectations from FHIR integration will continue to rise with the growing demand for seamless data transfer. FHIR will enable users to obtain data from health apps and devices to facilitate analytics and preventive care. . FHIR plays a significant role in providing a comprehensive picture of a patient’s health that goes a long way in creating better care management programs. Since patients can also access this information, it ensures transparency and trust.

Technology advancements with FHIR

Small snippets of data or ‘resources’ that can be built on top of normalized data types represent clinical domains such as treatments, medications, diagnoses, etc., within EHRs. Health Level 7, the organization that develops standards in healthcare, has developed FHIR as a draft data standard.
As an HL7 standard, FHIR also simplifies healthcare information exchange across the ecosystem, paving the path for quick data access and interoperability. API-powered FHIR integration is just what we need to redefine patient experience and enable better collaboration across stakeholders.

It is beneficial for app developers too. Although FHIR cannot directly provide the necessary aspects required to write apps for EHRs, it helps them translate clinical data into components used in the apps. FHIR brings several benefits such as scalability, performance, usability, and data fidelity to developers to create FHIR apps that can be easily connected to any FHIR-enabled EHR or clinical solution.

As per insights from a recent study, only 24% of healthcare companies use application programming interfaces (APIs) to scale, yet FHIR APIs are expected to become widespread by 2024.

Value-based care

As healthcare providers continue to put in more efforts to provide value-based care, the fast-evolving government regulations, consumer demand, and competition demand a high level of interoperability among all stakeholders. FHIR provides the means not just to minimize errors but also reduces data silos and possibilities for fraud.

FHIR helps address gaps in care and information and keeps a tab on patient transitions as they move on from one healthcare provider to another. In times of health emergencies, this information can save lives.

Better collaboration between providers and payers

Patients depend on both as part of their health maintenance regime. FHIR standardization eases friction between the two in the preauthorization process itself, which has often been a pain point for all concerned. Thanks to a common-standard API, medical data can be obtained from the medical record software after raising a preauthorization request. Authorizations today occur in near real-time transcending beyond traditional clinical limitations.

Red flags to enable preventive care

As collaborative care becomes the norm, patients can now take the necessary preventive measures to avert an illness. As per a study published in The Lancet Digital Health journal, data from 47,000 Fitbit users in 5 U.S. states helped them predict and accelerate response to flu outbreaks. It goes on to demonstrate how good interoperability can be for everyone. It triggers a chain of reactions, all contributing towards health and better care.

An older person, for instance, getting early signs of flu can be at a greater risk. A physician or a care manager would prescribe anti-flu medications on being alerted about the symptoms. On the other hand, the patient may want to plan and reschedule things; for, e.g., he can avoid meeting an old friend or visiting grandkids. This is just a small demonstration of how interoperability facilitates preventive care in the connected world.

FHIR is the building block every healthcare organization needs today. FHIR implementation is fast, and the best integration engines allow developers to build a simple interface in just a single day. However, what is challenging is to ensure patient privacy at all times so that there are no breaches or violations. The industry needs to collaborate and work together to get the most out of FHIR integration.

Give your patients the FHIR edge with Trigent

Help your patients get smart about healthcare choices. With years of experience in the healthcare sector, we can help you improve patient care across all your applications. Our technology experts will automate and optimize the flow of information within your system with successful FHIR adoption.

Allow us to help you build care pathways with data and interoperability. Call us today to book a consultation.

Steps to Achieve EHR/EMR Interoperability to Put Patient at the Center of Healthcare

The US healthcare system has been battling quite a few challenges as they continue to track outbreaks, and stay abreast of the latest developments on vaccines and the spread of the disease. But what became glaringly evident during the pandemic was the lack of EHR/EMR interoperability that made sifting through patient information and providing seamless quality care pretty difficult. Although the federal government pumped in billions of dollars to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records, we are still far away from rising to the information challenges clinicians are facing on a day-to-day basis.

A classic case in point – California! It went through public health crises in 2020 as the state with the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, pinning its hopes on a robust health data exchange. As Claudia Williams, CEO of Manifest MedEx (MX) points out, “Smaller practices don’t know what kind of hospital care the patient received, they don’t know what drugs the patient is on, and they don’t have the tools to conduct that level of risk stratification.”

The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) recently published its 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan based on recommendations from more than 25 federal organizations.

Quality of data, user interfaces, and usability concerns, along with the inability of data to adequately support discovery and interoperability among systems – all underline the need to have better EHR/EMR interoperability to put patients at the heart of healthcare.

It’s time we dive deeper into the challenges stakeholders are facing as they proceed towards achieving EHR/EMR interoperability and how we can work towards making it a reality.

EHR and EMR: The fundamental difference

An electronic health record (EHR) is an electronic version of a patient’s medical history that includes test results, present illness and its history, progress notes, immunization, medications, etc. Often confused with an electronic medical record (EMR), an EHR is much broader in scope and offers a comprehensive view of the patient’s health. An EMR also contains medical history along with a treatment plan but it’s often pertaining to one practice and the details will therefore stay with that particular physician or provider and is never really shared when the patient moves on to another physician or provider.

The fact that EHR travels with the patient wherever they go, it gets shared with other physicians and providers helping them make informed decisions. EHR helps maintain continuity of medical care even when patients are moved to a different facility.

But in a complex healthcare environment, EHR integrations are not so easy. EHR solutions used by different medical facilities can differ in features, capabilities, workflows, and infrastructure requirements. Seamless sharing of information will therefore be possible only when we introduce interoperability into the system. This would require stakeholders to tide over the many challenges in attaining healthcare data interoperability.

The top ones include:

  • Absence of a unique patient identifier – Absolutely no or minimum standardization for identifying patients makes data exchange between EMR and EHR extremely tedious.
  • Lack of standardized data – With different standard formats for collating data, the information exchanged varies in format. This poses a barrier to analyzing, storing, and exchanging data seamlessly.
  • Slow FHIR adoption – The use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is recommended since it describes data formats and APIs for health record exchange and integrates the best of HL7, v2, HL7v3, and CDA while leveraging the best of web service technologies. It provides agility, efficiency, and security to data exchange with perfect standardization of data. The adoption of FHIR application programming interfaces (APIs) has a long way to go before it touches the finish line. While FHIR apps do extract data, they lack the ability to write data back.
  • Data privacy and security issues – Healthcare compliances such as HIPAA can impose limitations on how stakeholders share and exchange data amongst each other and third-party vendors.
  • The relatively high cost of integration – Traditional models can be a tad out of reach of small and mid-sized organizations from a cost perspective.

Interoperability for patient-centric care

Interoperability allows patients to be informed all the time irrespective of which vendor they choose. It ensures:

  • Better patient health outcomes
  • Better quality of care
  • Lower healthcare costs
  • Tailored treatments based on individual history and preferences
  • Greater patient engagement
  • Reduced ambiguity
  • Data devoid of redundancies

Interoperability initiatives should be patient-centric and revolve around improving patient care. The chief objective should be to safely and securely exchange patient information across the healthcare ecosystem where interoperability serves as the linchpin.

As Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services iterates, “(the agency wants to ensure that) information follows the patient regardless of geographic, organizational, or vendor boundaries.”
A CHIME KLAS report suggests 67% (up from 28% in 2017) of providers admitted they often or nearly always had access to the needed patient records in 2020 while only 15% (up from 6% in 2017) believe data exchange has impacted patient care. The Cures Act and many other federal initiatives are now focused on improving patient care through data sharing. Significant progress has been noticed in data sharing across disparate EMRs.

The way to interoperability

There are certain milestones to touch on the road to attaining interoperability. Just like the banking sector where current systems are modified instead of being recreated, the EHR too will benefit from suitably modified systems wrapped in applications and added capabilities.

Here’s what we need to do:

  • Use a population health management system – This will make providers accountable for caring for populations with common health conditions. The system will use data from various sources including EHRs, EMRs, claims, monitoring devices, etc. to give a 360-degree view to providers while helping patients with regular alerts and messages.
  • Leverage the services of Health Information Exchange (HIE) – HIE connects healthcare organizations across the state to allow them to exchange patient data. So if a patient gets admitted into an emergency room, the HIE will access data from other care centers too so as to give an accurate clinical picture of the patient to providers and alert them when a patient checks in to some other facility.
  • Deploy health management apps designed for patients – These are typically expected to help patients aggregate their health data, get health status, track appointments, manage healthcare plans, etc.
  • Employ big data analytics systems – These systems are expected to review large amounts of data to compare the effectiveness of treatments, aid medical discovery, analyze shifts in patterns of diseases and response to diseases, safety issues pertaining to healthcare equipment, etc. They rely on artificial intelligence for automatic correction of data inconsistencies and other chores such as extracting data from images, free text, etc.
  • Integrate APIs in healthcare – APIs allow developers to build applications quickly and protect patient data from malware and other malicious threats. They save storage space and allow users to pinpoint the exact source of data and get precise data. APIs are thus playing a pivotal role in alleviating clinical burden helping third-party apps and programs analyze data and enhance clinical decisions. As an integral part of healthcare, they now lead the way for successful interoperability.

Tread on the road to interoperability with Trigent

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but with Trigent by your side, you can surely adopt best practices to shift your focus and achieve EHR/EMR interoperability. No matter how far you are on the road to interoperability, we will take you there with the necessary solutions. A few workflow changes and technologies should get us started.

Allow us to tell you how the new interoperability standards can help your practice. Call us today.