The Importance of Data Interoperability in Modern Healthcare
Patient data doesn’t exist in a singular place. There could be dozens of files on a single patient spread nationally or globally, each telling an important story about a patient that should not be overlooked or lost. This is why data interoperability (the ability for systems to create and exchange data using a uniformly shared meaning of that data) is so important in modern healthcare. In this article we will talk more about what interoperability means for healthcare and its importance across the entire healthcare landscape.
Why Data Matters
Data holds immense significance in the delivery of healthcare and the amount of data generated in healthcare has been increasing at a rate of 47% every year. First and foremost, it helps clinicians draw conclusions and create treatment plans. Medication dosing, therapy pathways, and lifestyle advice is all determined by data. Therefore, this data needs to be accurate, up to date, and uniformly understood.
Data is also the backbone of evidence-based practice, ensuring healthcare aligns with the latest research and best practices. Medical research and trials rely heavily on data to create drugs, devices and inform other research. This creates improved patient outcomes and overall healthcare quality.
Public health strategies are formulated on data. Analysing large datasets helps decision makers to introduce interventions and preventative medicines. For example, vaccine programs are implemented when enough data supports the need for that type of intervention. Demographic information can also help health experts to determine who might be more at risk of a disease, such as we saw with Covid-19, when it was determined the elderly and those of ethnic minorities were more at risk of adverse effects.
Looking towards hospital management, accurate data can enable smooth patient flows, appointment scheduling, follow ups, reviews and operational efficiency. Hospitals can ensure they don’t become overcrowded or overburdened through effective data management, and that patients receive timely and appropriate healthcare services.
What is Unstructured Data?
In healthcare, we can categorise data into structured and unstructured data, with about 80% being unstructured. The structured data is largely quantitative – name, date of birth, gender, blood pressure reading, weight etc). Therefore it is easily exchanged and has very little room for misinterpretation or error.
Contrastingly, unstructured data, undefined in its native format. This might include medical images and written notes, discharge summaries and reports. Unstructured data can be harder to communicate between clinicians and institutions, and according to a 2023 HIMSS survey, 65% of health systems do not have the medical images and other unstructured information they need at the point of care. This is why it is so important for institutions to have tools in place to manage unstructured data and streamline communication between institutions.
Data Interoperability In Healthcare Matters
As aforementioned, Interoperability means that systems can talk to each other, ensuring that data can be created and transmitted accurately. It means that both unstructured and structured data can be integrated into one single view, and clinicians can then access all of this information within their workflow.
Interoperability matters for a number of reasons:
Unstructured data form a crucial part of a patient’s overall medical history, diagnosis and treatment. Without it, care can be dangerous. But with the right data, and a uniform understanding of that data (in particular unstructured data), healthcare teams can work harmoniously to enable good patient outcomes.
Efficiency and Reduced Costs
Many healthcare institutions are burdened with monolithic systems. But these are not fit for purpose and can be expensive to patch in new integrations. Contrastingly, organisations that use enterprise-wide software that integrate unstructured data and images are empowered to scale their technology which brings down cost, reduces complexity and heightens efficiency.
Patients can feel more empowered when interoperability is implemented. They can access parts of their data online, such as when completing an e-consult, or when using a monitoring device. While patients can’t see all data for data protection reasons, they can use health tech apps and platforms to access relevant data and take an active role in their healthcare decisions and outcomes.
Compliance with Regulations
Clinical settings are increasingly mindful of cybersecurity and adherence to regulations involving data management. Organisations must find software and tools that can uphold these standards, implement effective disaster recovery processes and ensure sensitive data is never compromised. Interoperability helps to ensure these settings remain compliant and accurate.
People are now on the move. Gone are the days when people lived and died in the same town or city – it is now very common to move around the country or even the world. Even travelling for work is common, and therefore people need to be assured that, when relocating or travelling, their data can be accessible in their new location. Without these records, a person can receive the wrong treatment, or not receive adequate care.
Innovation and Research
Interoperability supports medical research and innovation. Researchers need access to extensive and diverse datasets to support studies and trials for developing new drugs or medical devices. When using interoperable systems, researchers can pool together data from various sources and gain a richer understanding of datasets. This accelerates medical advances and benefits patients and public health outcomes.
To summarise, data interoperability is an essential component in modern healthcare. It facilitates collaboration between healthcare providers, accelerates medical research, and enhances public health efforts, all while reducing time and cost burdens.
We can help to implement data interoperability in your healthcare organisation. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our healthcare software development service.