Interoperability in healthcare is increasingly surfacing as both a priority and a challenge for the industry but recent advancements in cloud-based technology is opening fresh opportunities to enable change.

The medical profession needs to improve the state of interoperability and embrace the benefits of digital transformation. Already, interoperability and data exchange are driving technology buying decisions for 36 per cent of healthcare organisations, according to the 2017 Health IT Purchasing Intentions Survey.

But MedicalDirector’s white paper Interoperability in healthcare: Synergising an industry found that while interoperability is paramount to an efficient system of care and more accurate patient diagnoses, there is some reluctance and fear around embracing technological change.

The report discovered many in the medical industry are unsure about the security of moving sensitive patient information around, especially given the exponential rise of cyber attacks and data breaches in recent years. In fact, 76 per cent consider the security of information being sent or stored their greatest area of concern in regards to managing patient information.

The scattered state of Australia’s health data

The complexity of healthcare data means that continuing to build on standards development is a necessary part of any interoperability solution. But the current technical challenges of different parts of the health system to share information to improve patient care is an indication of how much potential there is to better leverage health information systems.

In Australia, health data collection and use in Australia by GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers is still scattered, disorganised and duplicated, according to the Productivity Commission. And there are substantial opportunities for making far greater use of the data collected to the benefit of all Australians. MedicalDirector’s white paper revealed data is recognised as the bedrock of high quality healthcare in Australia but many working in the industry still don’t have a complete understanding of what data sharing and interoperability actually involve and are therefore reluctant to embrace it.

Seismic shift in attitudes to cloud adoption

Compared with other industries, the healthcare sector has been relatively slow to embrace the cloud. The state of current interoperability in Australia’s healthcare sector has been increasingly frustrating GPs who can still be faced with working with outdated, server-based, legacy systems, and the siloed ways in which hospitals and practitioners communicate.

But consumers and individual users are already experiencing a seismic shift in their understanding of the cloud and its impact in every day life. They can share files, music, images and information with ease and little technical know-how, and manage day-to-day workflows with little or no set-up time or technical support.

It’s only a matter of time before the healthcare sector understands the benefit of the cloud in enabling a more flexible solution and greater scope for interoperability. A new report, Healthcare Cloud Computing: Global Markets to 2022, predicts it will soon dominate healthcare, with the global market for healthcare cloud computing forecast to reach US $35 billion by 2022.

This is because robust, cloud-based software offers significant benefits. It allows users to leverage the same resources in a more flexible way and enables those applications to access a common data model (CDM) while also offering customised end-user interfaces. And while healthcare IT systems are historically expensive to implement, update and maintain, cloud economics is changing that by shifting from individual budgets to cost-sharing models enabled by private, multi-tenant and, in some cases, public clouds.

Cloud as enabling better interoperability

MedicalDirector’s white paper revealed a range of significant benefits provided by cloud-based health solutions in enabling greater interoperability. It found cloud solutions provide the digital infrastructure needed to effectively coordinate patient-centred care, while interoperability facilitates the transition to healthcare that becomes the shared responsibility of the patient and practitioner. When it comes to the cloud, 64 per cent of respondents admitted they consider flexibility to be the main benefit of using a cloud-based EHR/PMS system.

Leveraging the power of cloud-based technology will help achieve greater communication between systems, practices and healthcare professionals that will ultimately deliver a more holistic view of a patient’s health. This will, in turn, better inform personalised care plans that empower patients to manage their own care and avoid repeat GP visits.

Additional benefits include:

  • Offering a scalable and flexible solution that can lower operational burdens

  • Cloud-based interoperability complements value-based, patient-centric care and population health efforts

  • Cloud-based solutions can open an opportunity for a greater, more connected digital ecosystem while ensuring security is a priority

  • Cloud-based interoperability can help reduce administrative burdens and benefit billing and reimbursement processes.

  • Unifying clinical systems into a single, cloud-hosted application and improve functionality and clinical workflow

  • Cloud-based systems can provide more seamless, unified and secure management of patient data and flow of information within healthcare organisations and between institutions.

Moving forward, legacy patient data systems may not be able to keep up with the next generation of cloud-based systems that better support and promote interoperability. At the same time, increased security and more robust, cloud-based solutions are opening up fresh opportunities to embrace a more scalable and flexible solution that will help propel the scope of interoperable digital healthcare into the future.

 

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