Are We There Yet?…Almost

Road_14The interoperability challenge has plagued hospitals and health systems for longer than any of us care to admit. The topic still elicits eye-rolls and cringes from everyone from health care reporters to CIOs – and who can blame them? The industry has largely over-promised and under-delivered when it comes to vendors “playing nice in the sandbox,” integrating systems and making data across the continuum available in a simple and cost-effective way.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that the answer to this challenge is mobility. With today’s changing models of care, mobility enables coordination across multiple facilities and geographies, as clinicians increasingly need to make or discuss real-time decisions beyond the bedside. Mobility also overcomes what we’ve always known as the traditional barriers to interoperability – disparate data sources on the back end and conflicting and varied user preferences on the front end. And in the race to accountable care, where health care organizations are being forced to figure out how to reduce costs and improve outcomes in record time, mobility is the first and fastest enabler of clinical integration and transformation. Without it, accountable care cannot be achieved.

But even mobility vendors haven’t gone far enough in addressing interoperability. We’ve attacked different pieces of the puzzle, understanding that we need to prove value and ROI  first at the individual departmental or chronic disease level. But we’re ready for the next step. Now, there’s a light bulb that goes on for CEOs and CIOs of major hospitals when they witness the unifying power of mobility in areas like cardiology and obstetrics. Beyond enabling them to make strides around specific quality metrics like door-to-balloon time or patient satisfaction, they’re recognizing its potential to achieve clinical transformation throughout the entire health system. I’ve already seen this start to happen in the health systems I visit every day. This signals to me that mobility has been proven, and the industry is ready to take an enterprise-wide approach. We’re entering an era where health systems are viewing mobility as a necessity for the entire care continuum.

I envision a world where interoperability through mobility not only provides secure, near-real-time data about a patient from any source across the care continuum – from admit to discharge and beyond – but also offers the “big picture” data health systems need to make broader decisions about their operations and ultimately, their financial future. This will mean that health systems can finally make the shift from focusing on incremental or departmental operational changes to true transformational change that enables them to meet the broader demands of the new healthcare environment – improving population health and addressing pressing issues such as reducing readmissions.

For now, healthcare’s interoperability challenge will continue to keep me up at night (and many health system executives and IT leaders as well). But it’s clear to me where the industry is headed. Mobility is the lynchpin, and we’re not far from every hospital and health system’s “a-ha moment.”