As a major global pandemic continues in the United States with no clear end in sight, those who work within and tangentially to healthcare are gearing up for major shifts in the industry. Not only does the virus call for changes in immediate treatment, but experts suggest that the virus will lead to long-term effects in the way day-to-day treatment is carried out for years to come. The effects of this are already visible on the health IT side of the industry as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pushes for new interoperability rules. How is COVID-19 driving this push for interoperability in healthcare? The team at Iron Bridge is here to break it down for you.
The HHS Calls for Interoperability in Healthcare
Interoperability in Healthcare May Come Sooner than Anticipated
Interoperability in healthcare has been a major initiative on the docket of health IT companies since 2009. For more than 10 years, these health IT companies have pushed for hospitals, practices, and healthcare vendors to implement EHR interoperability for the sake of streamlined communications and higher quality care for patients.
However, the state of interoperability in healthcare has been an ongoing battle. Achieving full interoperability has notoriously been slowed by inconsistent implementation rules that limit a hospital’s ability to share and receive necessary health information seamlessly.
However, in the wake of COVID-19 in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new set of rules that will require hospitals to boost interoperability efforts. By standardizing APIs and FHIR, the HHS hopes that full healthcare integration will empower providers, patients, and other vendors to fully utilize health data.
HHS, shortly after finalizing interoperability rules, considered pushing the implementation timeline back. The current state of affairs led to disagreement regarding a realistic timeframe for implementation, ranging from six to twenty-four months.
Why is COVID-19 Leading to Interoperability in Healthcare?
COVID-19 Reveals Faults in our Healthcare System
Much like the way earthquakes reveal faults in a building’s structural integrity (once it may be too late), COVID-19 sheds light on a number of issues in the American healthcare system. In addition to access to health insurance for those who have found themselves unemployed and an adequate supply of PPE for front-line providers, coronavirus has shown that integrated communication within the healthcare system is vital.
The high volume of patients within emergency rooms calls for more sophisticated triage, communication, and care coordination by providers. Additionally — in the case of a global pandemic — the ability to easily access and share information with public health officials is vital in containment efforts.
Additionally, a shift toward telehealth appointments as a form of social distancing has highlighted the need for interoperability in healthcare. In Washington state alone, telehealth vendor Amwell has seen a 700% increase in patient volume since the pandemic: a number that is expected to continuously rise as patients need to be seen for non-COVID matters.
This increase in the need for telehealth appointments doesn’t come without hurdles, though. Not only does the telehealth technology need to be easily accessible and usable for patients of all ages and ability levels, but hospitals must ensure that virtual documents are up-to-date. Physicians are notably overloaded and fatigued during this time, so ensuring that patient information is available is vital in ensuring that hospitals are not preemptively depleting resources for quality care during telehealth visits.
How Iron Bridge Can Help
Fast and Affordable Access to Interoperability in Healthcare
While it’s clear that COVID-19 calls for immediate changes in the way providers, patients, and vendors communicate important data within the healthcare industry, it remains unclear whether or not interoperability initiatives will be an immediate priority.
However, when the time does come for your hospital or practice to address interoperability challenges, Iron Bridge is here to help. As a leader in healthcare integration, Iron bridge offers Nuvola Hub: the low monthly rate managed integration platform. With Iron Bridge, achieving interoperability is easier and more affordable than ever before, only costing hospitals a small percentage of what a build it yourself version would cost.
Even in dire times like this, quality of integration and cost efficiency matter — perhaps even more than before. Iron Bridge puts the power in your hands to ensure your interoperability needs are addressed without the headache, helping you continue to provide the highest quality care to patients.
Think it’s time to put your interoperability initiative into drive? Get in touch with the team at Iron Bridge today to get started.