When asked if they were willing to share personal health information (PHI), 73% of Americans responded they would do so if healthcare providers could use it to improve patient care. People are generally happy to share their information if it means better care, but what are healthcare organizations doing with that data when they get it? Are they using it effectively to meet the same goal?
In our technology-driven world, healthcare organizations must be using patient data efficiently, securely and effectively. In recent years, many technologies have appeared precisely for this purpose. They’re an excellent resource for these organizations and are quickly becoming a necessity in many fields. Before we discuss these helpful technologies, let’s look at why they’re so necessary.
The Costs of Inefficient Health Data Exchange
Inefficient data exchange is never a good thing, but it has more significant consequences in the healthcare field than in other businesses. It could cause important patient information to be missed or misinterpreted, or it could lead to providers spending more time than necessary on data collection and entry, leaving less time for important patient care. Both can result in poorer patient outcomes and increased healthcare costs overall.
Most facilities use electronic health records (EHR) or customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These are great resources, but they often feature proprietary designs that don’t communicate well with other systems. They are not interoperable and lead to disparate platforms that cause inefficient data exchange.
What Is Interoperability?
Interoperability refers to the way information systems “talk” to each other. An interoperable system is one that can access, exchange, interpret and integrate data across different devices, platforms and other systems. It allows for healthcare systems to send and receive data in a way that’s understandable to the user.
We can break down interoperability into four different levels, each one representing a more involved method:
- Level 1 — Foundational: Interconnectivity in one system allows it to securely send data to and receive data from another system.
- Level 2 — Structural: This type of interoperability includes the organization, format and syntax of data exchange, including at the level of the data field, for further interpretation.
- Level 3 — Semantic: Common underlying models and data codification offers shared understanding and meaning to the user, providing readable results at the end of the exchange.
- Level 4 — Organizational: The governance, social, legal, policy and organizational considerations that facilitate seamless, secure, timely communication and data use within and between organizations, individuals and entities.
What Is Health Information Exchange?
Health information exchange (HIE) covers different forms of electronic data and allows healthcare professionals to share information securely while maintaining the meaning of the information. With the right kind of HIE in place, practitioners can create a more complete picture of the patient’s health, with full histories and medications directly gathered from providers. HIE facilitates the access and retrieval of data to support better care and secure data exchange.
Some of the benefits of HIE include:
- Reducing medical errors and oversights.
- Eliminating unnecessary paperwork and time-consuming data entry.
- Improving patient involvement in their care.
- Offering better tools and resources for practitioners.
- Facilitating more efficient operations overall, reducing healthcare costs.
Technologies That Offer Secure Data Exchange in Healthcare
Fortunately, there are many ways we can facilitate efficient and secure HIE. Typically, we do this through new interoperability technologies, such as the following:
1. Direct Secure Messaging
The DirectTrust Network is a reputable system of secure data exchange with specific recipients. It works similarly to sending an email and was created as a low-cost system for interoperability between healthcare providers.
With the help of DirectTrust, healthcare providers can send and receive information on a common system for much easier communications.
2. Query-Based Exchange
With a query-based exchange system, providers can share and access patient health information through reciprocal agreements. After signing an agreement to use the data ethically, responsibly and in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), providers can access a centralized hub with data shared amongst providers. This system’s framework was designed for interoperability. It standardizes patient data as well to improve readability and efficiency for users.
Query-based exchange is often necessary during unplanned care, such as emergency room visits or visits from a pregnant patient. It allows for providers to access necessary data to deliver the right care.
3. Healthcare APIs
Healthcare application programming interfaces (APIs) are useful tools that can connect disparate software systems and send data between them, regardless of the format or source information. One example might be connecting a provider’s EHR with an insurance system to determine coverage. APIs can be wide-reaching and cover a variety of functions. They’re often used to close the gap between systems that don’t traditionally communicate.
If a system uses many different APIs, management of that system can get difficult. Those APIs will need regular updating and use, and they likely need to convert data into readable formats between the two systems.
4. Cloud Fax
Historically, faxing has been a big part of healthcare operations, and many practices still use it. But traditional faxing is outdated and creates many inefficiencies from security needs to processing paperwork. Cloud faxing systems provide all the functionality of a traditional fax but in a much more efficient and effective manner. The system is HIPAA-compliant and HITRUST CSF-certified, moving traditional faxing to the digital world.
With these systems, users can send, receive and store their faxes digitally. This approach offers a more secure method of storage and eliminates the need for time-consuming paperwork. It’s a great resource for digital information sharing, especially when working with providers that still use traditional fax methods.
Improve Interoperability & Enhance Secure Data Exchange With Softlinx
If you’re looking for ways to improve your healthcare organization’s efficiency and interoperability, consider cloud-based faxing and other tools offered by Softlinx. We can help you meet compliance requirements while eliminating inefficiencies and helping your providers deliver better care overall. Industry leaders across healthcare and other fields have trusted Softlinx to help bring efficiency and high-tech capabilities to their organizations.
Our HIPAA-compliant cloud faxing service delivers all the appropriate safeguards for handling and storing confidential patient data. Other services that can help you boost efficiency throughout healthcare facilities include Fax over IP and barcode fax document workflows.
To learn more about improving interoperability and guranteeing secure data exchange in your organization, reach out to a knowledgeable associate at Softlinx today.