Interoperability in healthcare is what allows diverse databases to exchange information and data seamlessly and cohesively between systems. It provides a universal language between disparate systems, like mobile apps, electronic health records, third-party systems, and more.

Healthcare interoperability has been essential for the healthcare industry since 2009, when Congress established the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This law required medical organizations to switch to electronic records, outlining expectations for electronic data exchange. The ARRA is likely the primary factor pushing the healthcare industry toward interoperability.

Why Is Interoperability Beneficial for Healthcare Providers?

Patients commonly receive care from multiple providers operating within separate healthcare systems. Without interoperability, these different healthcare providers can’t know the patient’s care history, leading them to create individual medical files with missing and repeated information.

Consider, for example, if a patient had a bad reaction to medication and was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. The EMT in the ambulance wouldn’t have access to the patient’s list of prescribed drugs and wouldn’t know how to treat them properly.

Developers design interoperability in healthcare information systems to benefit patients. It helps medical professionals, wherever they are, get the information they need to provide the best care possible.

How Does Interoperability in Healthcare Apply to Software Development?

Interoperability in healthcare is what unifies systems. It isn’t easy to do well and offers a unique challenge to software developers. Accomplishing interoperability from a coding perspective isn’t hard, but there’s an abundance of red tape to cut through. Much of the information healthcare professionals need access to is highly confidential and requires intense care and sensitivity. 

Software developers may run into some of the following issues:

  • Variability in exchange standards: While Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are the norm, their organization isn’t standardized. The lack of standardization requires data manipulation before enabling integrations with other applications.
  • Information blocking: Healthcare payers have been reluctant to disclose information outside of their systems, providing a roadblock to interoperability.
  • Insufficient resources: Small healthcare organizations may not adopt interoperability because they lack the resources to build and maintain integrated systems.

Fortunately, software development can provide straightforward solutions to these issues. A lot depends on a well-maintained application programming interface (API) toolset. 

When you connect health applications, medical records, and lab results using API’s to a connected care platform, patients and healthcare professionals can more easily access important information. In addition, care providers can share information with patients on a patient portal or mobile application.

With the right software development team, healthcare payers and providers can create custom software that can do more with efficiency and transparency from filing insurance claims to updating patient records. 

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