Interoperability and compliance are both important aspects of healthcare, and though they may seem to be opposite forces, they are not necessarily pulling healthcare in different directions. In fact, they are often complementary and can work together to improve patient care and outcomes.
Interoperability refers to the ability of different healthcare systems, applications, and devices to exchange and use data in a seamless and secure way. This can help ensure that patient information is available to all members of the care team, regardless of the healthcare setting. Interoperability can improve patient care by providing a more complete picture of a patient’s health history, which can help healthcare providers make more informed decisions. Compliance, on the other hand, refers to the adherence to regulatory requirements and industry standards, such as HIPAA regulations. Compliance ensures that patient information is kept secure and confidential, and that healthcare providers are following best practices to protect patient privacy.
While interoperability and compliance may have different goals, they are not necessarily in conflict with each other. In fact, interoperability can help ensure compliance by providing a more complete picture of a patient’s health history and allowing for more efficient and accurate data exchange. Compliance, in turn, can help ensure that patient data is kept secure and confidential during the data exchange process. By ensuring that patient data is exchanged in a secure and efficient way, healthcare providers can provide better care and make more informed decisions, while also complying with regulatory requirements and industry standards to protect patient privacy.
Compliance Alone Is Not Enough to Reach Interoperability
You are correct that compliance alone is not enough to reach interoperability in healthcare. While compliance is an important aspect of healthcare, it does not guarantee that different healthcare systems, applications, and devices can exchange and use data in a seamless and secure way.
Interoperability requires the development and implementation of technical standards and specifications that enable different healthcare systems to communicate with each other. This includes the use of standardized terminologies and data formats, as well as the development of common interfaces and protocols for data exchange. In addition to technical standards, interoperability also requires a willingness to collaborate and share data among different healthcare providers, organizations, and systems. This can involve the development of partnerships, data sharing agreements, and other collaborative initiatives that promote the exchange of data in a secure and efficient way.
While compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards is important to ensure patient privacy and data security, it is not sufficient to achieve interoperability. Instead, a coordinated effort involving healthcare providers, organizations, and technology vendors is needed to develop and implement technical standards and best practices that enable interoperability across different healthcare systems and applications.
Benefits of Interoperability for Healthcare Providers
Interoperability enables healthcare providers to exchange patient information in a seamless and secure way, allowing for improved care coordination and collaboration across different healthcare settings. This can help reduce duplication of services and improve the quality of care. It also works to streamline workflows by reducing the need for manual data entry and other time-consuming tasks. This can help healthcare providers to work more efficiently and focus on providing high-quality care to their patients. Sharing information also helps reduce costs by improving the efficiency of workflows, reducing the need for duplicate testing and procedures, and avoiding medical errors that can lead to additional costs.
Benefits of Interoperability for Patients
Interoperability in healthcare means that patients receive more seamless and effective medical attention, regardless of where they are receiving treatment. It also reduces medical errors by ensuring that healthcare providers have access to a patient’s complete health history and can make more informed decisions about their care. Having the right information at the right time means less risk of medication errors, duplicate testing and procedures, and dangerous interactions.
And one of the main goals is to give patients greater access to their health information, allowing them to better understand their health status and participate more fully in their care.
How Government Agencies Are Working Towards Interoperability
A variety of different government agencies are working to advance interoperability in healthcare by promoting the development and adoption of technical standards and best practices for data exchange. By working together, these agencies are helping to create a more interoperable healthcare ecosystem that can improve patient care and outcomes. Here are some more traditional ways that U.S. government agencies have used to make progress towards interoperability:
- Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC): The ONC is a federal agency that works to promote the adoption and use of health information technology to improve patient care and outcomes. The ONC has developed a set of technical standards and specifications, known as the Interoperability Standards Advisory, to guide the development of interoperable healthcare systems and applications.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): The CMS is responsible for overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and has made interoperability a priority in recent years. In 2020, the CMS finalized a rule that requires healthcare providers to share patient data electronically in a standardized format to improve care coordination and patient outcomes.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): NIST is a non-regulatory agency that develops and promotes technical standards and best practices for a wide range of industries, including healthcare. NIST has developed a framework for interoperability that includes a set of standards and guidelines to ensure the secure and efficient exchange of healthcare data.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA is responsible for regulating medical devices and has been working to promote interoperability among medical devices. In 2020, the FDA released a new guidance document that outlines best practices for medical device interoperability and encourages the development of interoperable medical devices.
New Guidelines to the Future Healthcare Interoperability
FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically. It is designed to enable the exchange of healthcare information between different systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), and other healthcare information systems.
FHIR is gaining popularity in the healthcare industry as an effective solution for interoperability, due to its ability to enable the sharing of health data across different systems in a standardized way. FHIR is also designed to be flexible and modular, which makes it easier to implement and customize for specific use cases.
One of the key advantages of FHIR is that it is based on modern web standards such as RESTful APIs, which makes it easier to integrate with other systems and technologies. FHIR also uses a resource-based approach, which makes it easier to access specific data elements within a larger dataset. In addition, FHIR is designed to be scalable, secure, and efficient, which makes it well-suited for the complex and diverse healthcare environment.
The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) is a set of principles, terms, and conditions for sharing healthcare information electronically among healthcare organizations, including health information networks (HINs) and health information exchanges (HIEs). TEFCA was created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to improve healthcare interoperability in the United States.
TEFCA is designed to promote nationwide health data exchange through a standardized approach. The framework aims to reduce the complexity and burden associated with current health data exchange practices by providing a common set of technical standards and protocols for data sharing.
One of the key advantages of TEFCA is that it creates a standard approach to data sharing, which can reduce the complexity of healthcare interoperability and make it easier for healthcare organizations to share data with each other. TEFCA also includes provisions for patient privacy and security, ensuring that sensitive health information is protected and shared only with authorized parties.
While TEFCA is still in the early stages of implementation, it has the potential to significantly improve healthcare interoperability in the United States. By promoting a standardized approach to data sharing, TEFCA could help reduce costs, improve the quality of care, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Related article: What You Can Do NOW to Become a TEFCA Participant.
What Is the Difference Between TEFCA and FHIR?
TEFCA and FHIR are related in that they are both intended to improve healthcare interoperability, but they are different in their approach and scope.
TEFCA is a framework for promoting the interoperability of health information networks (HINs) and health information exchanges (HIEs) across the United States. It provides a common set of technical standards, policies, and procedures for data sharing among healthcare organizations, and it is designed to ensure that the sharing of health information is secure, efficient, and privacy protected.
FHIR, on the other hand, is a technical standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically. It provides a standardized way to exchange clinical and administrative data between different healthcare systems and applications, including EHRs and HIEs. FHIR is based on modern web standards, such as RESTful APIs, and it uses a resource-based approach to make it easier to access specific data elements within a larger dataset.
While TEFCA and FHIR are different in their approach and scope, they are complementary in that they can work together to improve healthcare interoperability. For example, TEFCA can provide a common framework for HINs and HIEs to share data, while FHIR can provide a standardized approach to exchanging that data between different healthcare systems and applications. By working together, TEFCA and FHIR can help ensure that health information is shared securely and efficiently, which can improve patient care and outcomes.
Related article: How HITRUST Supports Healthcare Interoperability and Compliance.
Compliance and Interoperability Can Work Together
The challenge for healthcare organizations is to find the right balance between compliance and interoperability, which requires careful planning, communication, and collaboration among all stakeholders. Healthcare organizations need to be able to meet regulatory requirements while also ensuring that health information is shared effectively and securely between different systems and technologies.
For more information on healthcare compliance services, contact I.S. Partners today.