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Mar 8, 2023

Interoperability in Healthcare

Helena HolmaCEO and Co-Founder

Interoperability in Healthcare

The market of digital health has accelerated in the past years. It is estimated to reach $400BN this year (1). Today there are more than 400 000 healthtech applications  and more than 500 EHRs (electronic health records) . However, these systems are not integrated which means that they don’t transfer patient data between them. We talk a lot about the potential of patient data, but the truth is that the data is fragmented and trapped in different systems. It is also very difficult to analyze medical data due to its inconsistency.

Digitalisation of healthcare enables more efficient use of limited resources as well as patient centered care. But if the foundation of digital health, interoperability, is neglected, it will be very difficult to fully utilize the benefits of digitalisation. The problem of fragmented and inconsistent patient data will continue to grow together with the growth of digital health.

Impact on Healthcare

As a medical doctor, I have experienced the problem with inaccessible and fragmented patient data. You are used to working in multiple systems, using printers, scanners and fax machines to bridge the different systems and accept the fact that it takes away valuable time with your patients. The actual lack of medical information can also lead to unnecessary treatments, prolonged waiting times, risk of mistreatment and side effects etc.

As a product owner in health tech, I’ve also experienced the implications on health tech startups, struggling with integrating their solutions to EHRs. It takes a lot of time, resources and it can be very expensive if you pay a consultancy to build them for you. This time and money should instead be spent on innovation and building great products.

Definition of Interoperability

This is why interoperability is so incredibly important in healthcare. But what is the definition of interoperability? This is how it is described on Wikipedia:

“Interoperability is a characteristic of a product or system to work with other products or systems. While the term was initially defined for information technology or systems engineering services to allow for information exchange, a broader definition takes into account social, political, and organizational factors that impact system-to-system performance.”

This definition is actually very good, because it also includes the political and organizational factors that are extremely important parts to solve this problem. Even though there are many legacy systems in healthcare, the most difficult challenges are often on a political and organizational level.

Primary and Secondary use of Medical Data

There are two important sides of the interoperability problem related to the primary and secondary use of medical data. One is the direct effect it has on the healthcare system, its patients and healthcare workers, the primary use of medical data. This needs an acute solution to decrease the workload, improve the work environment and reduce the risks associated with the lack of medical information. If the primary use of medical data is improved, it will also have a positive long term effect on the secondary use.

Due to the importance of secondary use of medical data, for research and innovation, there also needs to be a long term solution that solves the problem with inconsistent and bad quality data.

Leyr’s Solution

Leyr has a pragmatic approach to both of these problems with our unified integration layer. To solve the first problem we have reduced the barriers to build and maintain integrations to EHRs. To solve the problem with unstructured and low quality data we also offer a more long term solution by mapping the data to different standards, such as FHIR and OpenEHR.

Digitalisation of healthcare requires a solid foundation of interoperability to build upon. That is exactly what Leyr is offering. Please reach out if you are operating in this field either as a health tech startup, a decision maker, a healthcare professional, a patient or other stakeholder. We would love to discuss this topic with you!

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