When it comes to digital health, few terms are as buzzy as “interoperability”. It’s an awkward word to say, but what does interoperability actually mean?

The Health Care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines interoperability in healthcare as “the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.” To put it simply, it’s the ability to share and interpret patient information across an entire system.

Imagine the possibilities of a healthcare system where not only is patient data collected and shared between healthcare providers, but is also interpreted and presented in a way that is clear, concise, and demonstrates the cause and effect of each type treatment received by a patient. Let’s take a look at four crucial ways interoperability could improve healthcare.

Improved Efficiency

If we had to pick one way that interoperability would most greatly affect healthcare, our money would be on improving efficiency. This technology could greatly reduce the time spent by practitioners inputting and interpreting data. Rather than needing to send and receive patient data via fax or email, that data would be immediately available, also decreasing the workload on support staff. Resources typically tied up in administrative tasks could be shifted to increase focus on patient care. 

A 2017 Report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows about 20% of Canadians wait seven days to see their family doctor when they are sick, and about 56% of Canadians say it takes more than four weeks to see a specialist. Interoperability can reduce wait times, so patients can access timely care.

Easier Research

Interoperability can open doors to research opportunities. With vast amounts of patient information securely collected and shared, it will be easier to measure the impact of healthcare delivery on patient outcomes. 

Improved Public Health Data

Adoption of interoperable digital health technologies will allow for faster, more accurate collection and interpretation of public health data. Recognizing, tracking, and predicting the spread of contagious ailments can limit their spread, enable better preparation, and increase the effectiveness of treatment. Applying the same tactics to predict long-term health trends can create opportunities for preventative measures to be adopted on a larger scale, potentially reducing long-term healthcare costs.

Improved Programs & Services

Afterall, what is the point of collecting and interpreting all of that data if it’s not going to be used to improve the patient experience? Learning more about how healthcare is impacting patients across the entire ecosystem will shine a light on how we can most effectively improve patient experiences and outcomes.

Digital Health Week

If you’re interested in learning more about interoperability in healthcare, or digital health in general, we invite you to participate in Digital Health Week (November 13-19, 2017) and follow #ThinkDigitalHealth on Twitter.