Integrated vs. interoperable health care – which is better?

For decades, the most popular buzzword in healthcare has been interoperable. It is the de-facto standard which all health tech components aim to achieve and are measured against. But a new focus on integrated health care is challenging the concept of interoperable technology and creating confusion about which goal is better. To better understand the differences and similarities, let’s take a closer look at each term and what it means.

What is interoperable health care?
Interoperability in healthcare is the ability for various healthcare information technology (HIT) to exchange, interpret and use data cohesively. Interoperability means the ability for health information systems to work together across organizational boundaries to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities. It is the framework that allows critical information to be shared across patient care teams, regardless of operating systems, to ensure patients receive the best care.

What is integrated healthcare?
Integrated healthcare moves beyond just the HIT system that providers and healthcare systems use to trade patient information to include the patient as part of the care decision team. Integrated care is not so much about skilled health care personnel working together but more around the holistic approach of persons and services working together to create a fully connected health care experience. It looks at the big picture components that bring together both the treatment for medical conditions as well as the outlying factors that can often serve as barriers for patients to achieve the best outcomes.

What are the key differences between the two?
Whereas interoperability focuses primarily on technology systems, the ability to maintain security requirements, connectivity to existing systems, and ease of use; integrated looks at the many responsibilities in caring for a patient. These elements include:

·      How patients can access information on their condition, and how it evolves over time

·      How the use of medication and treatment therapy can impact a patient’s understanding and response to treatment

·      What a patient’s care environment looks like and whether there is support available

·      What additional support is available to assist with patient care, whether through a healthcare system or a patient’s insurance coverage or other sources

What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Integrated healthcare is a way to allow patients and providers to work together to provide excellent health services. It gives patients more control over their health and incorporates all available programs to help reduce costs, access, and other barriers that care create challenges toward achieving positive outcomes. Integrated health care can also help to reduce overall cost for patients because it involves collaboration between patients, doctors, nurses, pharma, payers, and technology support solutions. This collaboration brings together different specialists and solutions to ensure care delivery.

Integration also aids in convenience by understanding the available resources the patient is already using, what support is available through various medication platforms, payer assistance, home-based support, and the technology that is available to unite them. This connectivity results in higher overall patient satisfaction rates, as patients spend less time trying to connect or access support services, and enhanced collaboration takes a whole-patient approach leads to an enhanced quality of life.

How are pharma orgs utilizing these new models?
For pharma companies, the use of new digital channels is helping to move companies closer to the patient and add engagement as part of the new integrated healthcare model. Platforms like Medisafe enable pharma companies to deliver timely support and guidance on medication therapies direct to patients, in key moments, to help throughout their treatment journey. This timely involvement allows pharma to aid patients at critical moments in their treatment, reduce fears around side-effects, and follow patients as their treatment advances and changes. This integration also connects payers and providers to the patient, helping to further unite the care team with the patient’s needs, while keeping all parties informed.

The exchange of information in healthcare, as with all other facets of modern life, is critical to our advancement. Interoperability addresses that need while simultaneously increasing the quality of care received, improving healthcare efficiency and even financial incentivization. But a new focus on integration adds in new patient-focused tools, digital health advancements, and the peripheral elements that aren’t always classified as healthcare but can often hinder positive outcomes. With a more holistic approach that includes a patient’s whole health, integrated healthcare presents a more complete solution for the future.

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