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Interoperability and Population Health

As we close out our daily blog series in support of National HIT Week, we’d like to focus on another theme highlighted this week: Interoperability and Population Health.

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Jonathan Niloff, MD, President and Chief Medical Officer of McKesson Corporation’s Connected Care and Analytics unit, spoke with SearchHIT about the importance of interoperability to population health. Dr. Niloff said that being successful in population health requires data, both to “assure the good coordination of care and to feed the analytics that are so important to understand [what’s] happening to a population, and being able to manage both quality and utilization.”

He adds that “interoperability, if used as the sharing of clinical data among providers in different venues of care, is the key way that clinical information is shared among providers.” It provides assurances that a patient’s caregivers know what care that person is receiving and nothing is missed from a quality of care and patient safety perspective, including the ordering of redundant tests. “That’s accomplished through the sharing of test results among different providers,” notes Dr. Niloff.

Yet, we all have had experiences as patients where, when visiting multiple providers that are not part of the same health system, are relegated to completing the same medical background forms ad infinitum, subject to the same Qs & As and yes, even given orders for tests that we’ve already undergone. And, with recent global health issues like the Zika virus, how are physicians to understand its full impact on populations and how individuals respond to available treatments for the disease without the open sharing of health records?

Unfortunately, a solution to this problem may not be in sight in the near future. According to a 2015 survey by Scrypt, only one in five healthcare professionals (17%) are confident the government will meet its goal of achieving interoperability in 10 years.

The fact is, “effective population health management demands open communication and collaboration through interoperability and an ability to have access to a patient’s entire record,” says Jacob Levenson, CEO of MAP Health Management. His perspective on the importance of interoperability to population health, published in Health Data Management’s “HIT Think” column, can be accessed here.