Interoperability has been a hot topic lately, and for good reason. As patients’ expectations for convenience care evolve, technology plays a larger role in how they interact with their chosen health professional/s. The use of digital systems and digital health is becoming increasingly important in modern health practice, ranging from record keeping, to data analysis, to safe communication and transmission of data with patients or other health professionals, to telehealth.
Clinics and practitioners looking to retain and attract patients might already be offering telehealth services, but with a new modality of care comes a stream of potentially disconnected data in the patient’s ongoing care, which presents its own set of challenges.
The fragmentation of health data is one of the single greatest challenges facing the healthcare industry today. It’s not unusual for clinics and practitioners to have multiple applications installed including electronic health records (EHR), pathology, accounting, and billing systems from different vendors. Each of these applications tend to favour flexibility and familiarity for their specific function over interoperability. This can present limitations with the seamless exchange of health information as well as poor use of time, leading to loss of income.
It’s well documented that the ability for disparate entities and health systems to share pathology results, patient medical notes and summaries, referrals and other health data can significantly improve patient outcomes and is becoming even more essential today as practitioners strive for value-based care.
Unfortunately, today’s digital health infrastructure makes large-scale data processing across different IT systems still unnecessarily difficult. The reason being is that different health systems operate with a wide variety of data formats, custom specifications, and ambiguous semantics. This is only exacerbated by the trend to store increasing amounts of unstructured data in non-translatable databases making communication with other software, difficult.
For healthcare professionals, one of the biggest hurdles in the interoperability race is the industry’s lack of data standards. Every decision a practitioner makes regarding the treatment of their patients should be informed by data. Although there is a lot of work to be done in this area, HealthBank’s immediate goal is to create a ubiquitous, trusted and neutral data ecosystem where patients and practitioners can seamlessly and securely exchange data i.e. personal and health information. As a result, achieving greater patient engagement and empowerment leading to better health outcomes, faster access to information and the ability to provide healthcare at a lower cost.
HealthBank has set out to remove any barrier for practitioners to access patient data by developing an in-app, secure two-way file sharing feature allowing patients to share their personal health records with their practitioner and practitioners to share health information and education with their patients. What has made this feature so successful is it involves the patient in the treatment and care processes. This feature may not be a universal solution but it’s one of the things HealthBank could do to provide a better treatment experience for both practitioners and patients.
There is still a lot that needs to be done to solve the interoperability problem. In the meantime, HealthBank continues to build features and present innovations that enable practitioners to improve the way they manage and engage with their patient records, deal more efficiently with aggregated data, and handle information collected from various sources. This will ensure that practitioner clinical decisions are made in the light of all the relevant data available to them to deliver more efficient and better care.
Robbie’s six tips to enhance (digital) patient engagement:
- Choose an all-in-one digital health solution in which its features are accessible, easy to use, and responsive to the needs of the patient.
- Stay on brand – avoid multiple third-party tools. Your patients come to you because they trust you. Your virtual care tools should look and feel like the rest of the services you offer your patients.
- Automation is key – automation of appointment reminders, product orders, payments and invoicing create less work and stress for the patient (and you), resulting in a better patient experience.
- Flexibility and access – your digital health solution needs to provide patients the flexibility to book and reschedule appointments, choose the way they attend their appointment and access their health/treatment information.
- Participatory care – make sure your digital health solution has features to allow for patient participation. This creates a sense of empowerment, which leads to better adherence, retention, and health outcomes. Win-win.
- Connectivity – make sure your digital health platform is responsive across multiple devices. Limiting the choice of how your patients engage with you will result in frustration and a lack of engagement.
Robbie is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Exercise Scientist and Co-Founder of HealthBank.io. He has worked in private practice and corporate health consulting for over 10 years and is a digital health advocate and educator.