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Interoperability of Electronic Health Records– Benefits and Opportunities – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on June 17, 2015 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer Bergeron
Electronic health records (EHR) aim to improve healthcare and processes for providers and patients on a number of fronts. In an ideal situation according to HealthIT.gov, the clinician benefits by having quick access to patient records and alerts, the ability to quickly and accurately report, and a path to safer prescribing. Patients should be able to spend less time filling out duplicative forms at clinics, have prescriptions sent automatically to pharmacies, and gain easier access to specialist referrals.

The International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies points out that interoperability can work toward a resolution to several current problems including patient record accessibility and consolidation, and healthcare costs. As far as getting patient information and all available information when it’s needed, the report “estimated that 18% of medical errors that result in an adverse drug event were due to inadequate availability of patients’ information.” Healthcare costs are reduced when different entities can share and communicate common data and could save up to $77.8 billion annually.

Given the potential benefits, there are still opportunities to achieve interoperability. For example, not all healthcare organizations are using EHRs so data isn’t being collected consistently across the board. In 2014 there was an increase in the percentage of hospitals with EHRs. However, only 39% of physicians reported that they share data with other providers. Even though the data is available to share, some EHR users may still be living in a silo and haven’t reached full adoption. In addition, existing specification standards have not promoted interoperability. Even though there is data is available to share, few providers are tapping into that information.

To help increase data sharing, more attention is being paid to FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. FHIR stems from HL7 (Health Level Seven) data exchange and information modeling standards. HL7 has been around since 1987 to develop families of standards used to automate healthcare data sharing with the goal to improve patient care. FHIR builds upon the interoperability uses of HL7 and takes into consideration the changes in technology and requirements. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), FHIR is used to enable data access, is used as the container to return query results, and will be used to build necessary security and privacy controls.

FHIR combines what are called “resources” — also known as an instance of data – that define data and are used for specific content. Within a resource are characteristics including “a common way to define and represent them, building them from data types that define common reusable patterns of elements, a common set of metadata, and a human readable part.” Collected data can be used and exchanged, searched for individually or in groupings, analyzed and examined.

Interoperability and the role of FHIR is not yet clearly defined. Going forward, the roadmap for interoperability built by the ONC will be watched closely. Guidelines are broad at this point to allow appropriate decision-making as paths are forged. A group of organizations called the Argonaut Project has committed to working with FHIR. HI7.org defines the Argonaut Project as having the purpose of developing “a first-generation API (application programming interface) and Core Data Services specification to enable expanded information sharing for electronic health records, documents, and other health information based on the FHIR specification.”

APIs are at work behind the scenes when we’re accessing information online. Although healthcare is beginning to harness the power of APIs these interfaces are present everywhere in our day-to-day lives. For example, say you are listening to Spotify and want to connect that application with Facebook. An API helps make that translation of information from Spotify to Facebook happen.  Imagine the possibilities in the realm of data and healthcare. The development of APIs by the Argonaut Project is just the beginning stages of data sharing and interoperability.

In order to reach true interoperability and efficient use of FHIR, the first step is EHR adoption. Once data is captured into an EHR system, organizations can focus on data standards and clear data management, and have the ability to measure impacts to healthcare patients, providers, costs, and communication. Without the right, accurate data input, interpretation at the end of the process is not accurate or actionable. If clinicians are aware of how their engagement with data and proper input at the beginning of this process affects their practice, their patient’s experience and health, and healthcare on a broad spectrum, they can make a difference well into the future.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training.

How Can Wearable Gadgets Like the Smartwatch Help Heart Patients?

Posted on I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Kelly Everson.
Kelly Everson
Wearable tech and its purpose

Wearable tech is no more a thing of future times; it’s here, and it can help many people regarding health issues. Go to any store or just go online, and you will realize that fitness bands and smartwatches are all around you. But you are no expert; how will you decide what to buy? How will you know the choice you made will help you with the issue you are confronted?

Well, that all depends on what you need and at what price. Not every single device is the same, even though they look very similar. Wearable technology can be fun in some cases and useful in others. The wearable category is still being developed and each day we can witness a new band or something of the sort.

Up till now, smartwatches have had quite a good impact on personal safety and in the wellness area. The impact related to health has not been very big, but a lot is happening and will continue to happen.

Various giant companies such as Google, Apple, Baidu, and Samsung are working on health platforms. They can aggregate info from different sources and wearables, and promise to gather highly valuable insights based on sets of data.

How to choose a smart band or a smartwatch?

Think about the design, and does it appeal to you. You will also have to find out does the device support a Bluetooth, and what operating system it supports. If you plan to swim while wearing it, it should be waterproof, or at least swim-friendly. It is also very important that the device has a solid battery life and. Search and discover what apps does it run, and are those apps the ones you need. Some devices have screens that are always on, while other don’t. That feature consumes a lot of power and drains the battery, so keep that in mind. You should check if the device supports heart rate monitor and at what level.

Smartwatches and patients with heart problems

Smartwatches are supposed to play a very important role in medicine, especially for patients with heart problems, here is why:

  • Continuous monitoring of heart rate and other bodily functions

That will help patients in many ways. Monitoring of heart rate and movement has become state of the art in some of the latest releases of smartwatches, but some other parameters have improved as well. Now people can monitor their blood sugar, blood pressure, nutrition, temperature and more.  In the upcoming releases of smartwatches, some other parameters will be introduced. Patients with heart problems will benefit the most, as they are the most endangered group.

  • Therapy

Heart patients as said before are the most endangered group and need the most care. Based on diagnostics and monitoring we can conclude that certain wearables will be used solely for therapy. Some smartwatches will have a function of delivering drugs at the right context and time. There are many such programs under way and have received a few million dollars of funding to make it a reality.

  • Specific group of patients and corresponding tools

Just think about a specific smartwatch apps for patients with heart problems, or those who suffer from diabetes, blindness, deafness, epilepsy, lung issues and so on and so on. Hundreds of applications are in development as we speak around the world, and have a great potential for the mentioned group of patients.

  • Patient records in an electronic form

Smartwatches seem to be a fantastic key for electronic patient records. They are great for recording health data and are on you all the time, even in a case of an emergency. Users will have total control over who gets access to what information and in which particular situation.

What’s next?

Even though the benefits are obvious and splendid, years will pass until smartwatches can reveal their full potential within the medical area. A lot of scientific data will be needed to conquer regulatory hurdles and to get compensated by the systems of health care. Also, people will have to be confident that their details are secure.

Even though, it will take time, by 2020 smartwatches are going to be indispensable and extremely valuable tool throughout a vast number of health care settings.

About Kelly Everson
Kelly Everson is MA in English Literature and an American Author. Her work comprises of articles appearing or forthcoming in over a dozen health care websites and global internet magazine covering technology, future gadgets, beauty skin care and overall men’s & women’s health. When she’s not educating strangers with her writing, she’s most likely researching about new discoveries in technology, health, fitness and beauty industry. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.