Interoperability and achieving the “one patient, one chart” standard

A heathcare worker in a white lab coat and stethoscope works on a desktop computer, looking at a diagnostic imaging file.

The importance of interoperability in healthcare has been clear for some time — and it is only gaining importance.

The ONC Health Interoperability Outcomes 2030 survey found consensus among providers that interoperability is a top priority, with goals of integrating patient data from inside and outside the system and combining clinical and administrative data to support patient care and business applications.

The industry has backed this interest with significant investment: The global healthcare interoperability solutions market — at $2.9 billion in 2021—is projected to reach $5.7 billion by 2026, according to Markets and Markets forecast for Healthcare Interoperability Solutions.

Although health systems are well on their way to digital transformation, there are still obstacles in the way of connected care. While the barriers are varied and complicated, one thing is clear: Access to crucial patient content must be improved if we are to meet tomorrow’s standard of patient care.

In the 2022 State of Connected Care Survey conducted by HIMSS Market Insights, 60% of respondents reported lack of access to medical images and unstructured patient records at the point of care. Without access, clinician ability to make informed decisions for improved patient outcomes is limited.

In a recent HIMSS Market Insights survey, 60% of health systems reported that they do not have access to medical images and unstructured patient records at the point of care, inhibiting clinician ability to make the right decisions for improved patient outcomes.

Why is interoperability in healthcare important?

Patient information, like all information in the global datasphere, is exploding.

More information can provide deeper insights, but it also creates challenges in securely ingesting, sorting, normalizing, classifying and analyzing it to make it useful in a timely manner. As data grows, so does the importance of securely integrating and exchanging health information to ensure complete information for care decisions

Respondents to the HIMSS Market Insights survey cited obstacles to connected care including integrating data that is siloed in multiple EHRs, managing unstructured content and systems integrations.

In healthcare, patient information is often fragmented across specialties, locked inside systems or inaccessible from within a core system. EMRs or EHRs — regarded as the central store for patient information — don’t always handle unstructured information like point of care medical images and clinician notes well. PACS imaging technology, software that typically supports only radiology or cardiology departments, ties clinicians to proprietary workstations and requires manual steps to share imaging with hospitalists and others, causing delays and interfering in valuable collaboration.

A clear case for connected care

Even within a single health system, staff may take manual, time-consuming steps to extract and share information. A classic example is the “CD workflow,” where radiology burns imaging studies on CDs for delivery to another department.

When information is difficult to access, it creates inefficiency and inconvenience for patients and providers, and it can create delays in treatment, too.

Access to unstructured information becomes an even bigger challenge when a patient travels outside of their home system. Imaging, reports and test results conducted at one facility may be instrumental for informing decisions at another, such as:

  • Surfacing crucial information
  • Tracking developments
  • Avoiding errors that can result from re-keying data

When information can be easily and securely shared, collaborators can also tap into a network of colleagues and cross-functional teams to deepen insights and share knowledge.

The ability to share information also avoids the expense and inconvenience of a patient having to repeat imaging or testing simply because their information cannot be shared with another organization or health system.

The case for secure access to a more complete patient record is clear, but the path to get there isn’t always straightforward.

“One patient, one chart” becomes reality for a healthcare innovator

A cardiac patient needed a timely consult before being transported to another facility for advanced care. By the time the patient arrived, the receiving cardiologist had reviewed all the patient’s health records and images, providing a seamless care experience and avoiding costly repeat imaging.

While this anecdote illustrates the case for connected care, it’s remarkable to note that it occurred one day after leading innovator UNC Health finished a massive, ambitious project to consolidate and streamline systems.

The goal was a single, complete record for each patient. As the UNC Health system portfolio grew and new hospitals joined, it increased the number of disparate systems and PACS. To offer patients, clinicians and caregivers the highest standards of care, the healthcare organization needed to streamline and unite the valuable but disjointed information within these systems.

UNC Health went all in on digital transformation.

The health system rolled out an Epic EMR installation and consolidated PACS nearly simultaneously with the Hyland vendor neutral archive.

It brought together imaging reports across all facilities and clinics.

It eliminated nine PACS and three reporting systems.

It streamlined access to information and reduced costs — all while making sure radiologists had continued access to all prior imaging studies to support care decisions.A browser-based patient record shows a two corresponding images. On the left, an ultrasound diagnostic image with accompanying data and patient identification. On the right, a graph shows a patient's QRS axis interpretation.

UNC Health extended its digital transformation success enterprise-wide

The success of this initiative spurred further opportunities for UNC to leverage its investment in Hyland’s scalable, extendable solutions and make improvements in other content-centric processes, including human resources and accounts payable. The health system put intelligent document capture and automated data extraction to use to ingest, capture and analyze data and classify documents. The result: massive gains in operational efficiency with these steps toward intelligent automation.

With enterprise imaging and content services platforms in place, UNC Health is champion of digital transformation in healthcare and serves as a best practices example for connected care. The health system, with top-level HIMSS Stage 7 accreditations, cites Hyland technology as essential to this goal.

Learn more about the UNC Health journey to connected health.

Healthcare interoperability solutions market for the next decade

Many healthcare organizations aim to centralize and streamline access to important content in clinical and administrative functions. Progress is being made, but it isn’t always a smooth journey — and the quest isn’t diminishing.

The volume of digital data is exploding in medicine as it is everywhere, and technology is an irrefutable force that is changing the way we work. While there are still challenges to sort, it’s clear that connected content is a priority.

How are health systems achieving connected care goals?

The HIMSS Market Insights survey shows that three-quarters of respondents expect to purchase a connected care platform. They are also deciding what information is most important to exchange, and weighing which technologies will have significant impact on efficiency such as intelligent process automation and low-code development.

They’re also studying the proven ROI for healthcare cloud content services.

Our mission to deliver a complete view of the patient

At Hyland, our mission is to deliver a complete view of patient information to healthcare providers, to provide images and content in context, to help achieve an all-encompassing view of each patient.

With a content services platform that includes enterprise imaging, we offer a solution that supports anytime access in network to enhance clinical efficiency and quality of care.

Learn more: Check out the 2022 State of Connected Care Survey Infographic from HIMSS Market Insights

Colleen Sirhal

Colleen Sirhal

Colleen Sirhal serves as the chief clinical officer and director for Global Healthcare Consulting at Hyland. Her primary responsibilities include: evolving our global healthcare business, understanding healthcare trends and business... read more about: Colleen Sirhal