The value of interoperability

Do you really need another platform?

At its core, interoperability is the capacity for healthcare providers to access and share patient health information and the most up-to-date and complete patient medical records, regardless of the healthcare system where they work or the technology they use. Today, nothing travels as fast as information, and seamless transfer of documents and care plans via health information exchange is leading to better health outcomes. But as new technology continues to innovate the healthcare space, questions remain about the value of existing technology systems and new plug-in updates, the benefits of additional platforms, and potential risks for the future. 

Connected ecosystem
Today’s approach to healthcare is more holistic and connected than ever before. This means that new digital health platforms need to support a greater connected ecosystem where information and interoperability are paramount to long-term success and positive outcomes. Comprehensive platforms must help to connect the ecosystem to ensure that every part of their solution works together to create a positive, seamless experience. Plug-in applications, conversely, can connect with existing systems that are already providing connectivity and support to the ecosystem. 

With so much changing so quickly, a plug-in system can more quickly adapt to changes and updates versus a platform which is likely to require more complex configuration to stay updated to new requirements. Payers, pharma, and providers are already working with many different platforms and systems, which are all developing new and different digital solutions. By opting for a plug-in to the ecosystem, new digital enhancements can improve the healthcare experience.

Platform or plug-in
In evaluating the value of adding an additional platform, there is much to consider in terms of gains and efficiency. There is also the consideration of whether another digital health platform is warranted given its impact on existing EHR memory and processing space required to run the system. A plug-in application can integrate with existing EHR systems, often requiring far less computing space and less impact to current technology setups. New platforms may also pose a challenge in full integration of existing systems, and ultimately may mean users must toggle between systems to capture key patient information. 

Many times, a plug-in can support existing platforms by adding additional information, with little to no impact on processing space or system performance, while still giving users key information such as medication use, remote monitoring data, activity levels, and more. In many cases, new digital health platforms can integrate with other systems, but it’s important to consider the impact to back-end configurations and whether a plug-in solution may be more beneficial in delivering key data without a greater challenge to systems. 

Value of interoperability
A key component in determining the value of platform vs. plug-in is in its interoperability with existing systems. For providers and health systems exploring the addition of new digital health solutions, the answer comes in whether a plug-in can unlock new insights within an existing set-up; or whether a whole new platform is the only way to gain additional patient data and insights even if it operates in a silo. The value of interoperability comes from the connection of systems to create a more complete picture of patient health, and most importantly to share this collective information with care teams and decision makers to develop a more complete approach to patient care. When a new digital health solution comes in the form of a separate platform, and is unable to integrate with other systems, it can lose its value toward the goal of true interoperability. By contributing to other systems and existing platforms, any new digital health solution should help to create more robust data insights – helping to create more informed decisions, without providers having to compile these findings from multiple, disparate systems that don’t fully integrate with each other. 

Conflicting security standards
An additional consideration into the value of platform interoperability is all around patient information security. A cornerstone of interoperability is in support of data sharing, but within set parameters that protect patient information, privacy, and security. It’s important to know whether an additional platform or plug-in will maintain existing data sharing regulations and pose risks to third parties to share key information. Both PII and PHI are carefully protected, and often required to be de-identified in digital health solutions where information is shared to support greater interoperability. Regardless of a new platform or a plug-in update to an existing system, PII should be highly protected, and administrators should evaluate whether these new solutions meet their existing standards. 

And speaking of standards, for tech solutions new to the healthcare space, security standards may be very different from more stringent healthcare security measures. Administrators should evaluate whether new solutions can meet their existing security standards, and if not, does adding a new solution pose risks to interoperability and existing security requirements. 

With a focus on interoperability as the new hallmark of a digitized healthcare world, it’s important to understand what elements are most important, and whether add-on solutions might make a better investment than full platforms with clunky integration. Ease of use and gaining better patient insights should not come at the cost of more laborious tasks for providers nor security risks to a system. There is value in interoperability, but not all gains should require reinventing the wheel. 

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