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The Patient Journey and the Role of Healthcare Interoperability

The Patient Journey and the Role of Healthcare Interoperability

While she was traveling on an extended vacation out of state, Jane Doe sought medical help for severe back pain. The pain had been building for months, but she began to feel scared as numbness and tingling ran down both legs. She went to the local hospital, and after the initial imaging provided no answers, the doctor ordered an MRI. Later that week, the results indicated a concerning issue in her lower back, requiring treatment from a specialist in her hometown. Jane cut her trip short, returned home and went to see the spine specialist as soon as she could get an appointment.  

Jane arrived at the specialist anticipating new answers to what was causing the pain that had only grown worse with each passing day. Much to Jane’s frustration, the specialist didn't receive her images, and she wasn't sure where the CD with her imaging from the previous health facility was. She hadn't kept track of it because she thought it was just an antiquated and unnecessary policy - giving CDs to patients in a digital age where CDs have become nearly obsolete.

The specialist ordered a repeat of the MRI, delaying Jane's expectations of receiving a speedy diagnosis and proper treatment plan. Jane was dissatisfied with the quality of care she was receiving and felt discouraged and confused about the health system's shortcomings. Jane was rightfully frustrated by her patient experience. She felt her journey to diagnosis and treatment was disrupted by preventable technological limitations. Jane had encountered one of the biggest challenges in the industry: healthcare interoperability. 

Interoperability: An Alternate Patient Journey For Jane Doe

Interoperability has emerged as a transformative force in healthcare, profoundly impacting the patient journey for patients like Jane Doe. By enabling seamless communication and collaboration among disparate health systems, interoperability enhances care coordination, empowers patients with access to their health data and medical images, promotes better continuity of care, and drives innovation and research. The absence of interoperability, a reality for far too many health systems in the nation, creates patient friction and financial waste, just like Jane Doe’s imaging experience. 

There are many elements in the healthcare industry that influence its dynamic regarding change - unstable economies, under-resourced health systems facing employee shortages, cultural openness to introducing new technologies and operational best practices. The obstacles are real, but they are not insurmountable. 

The Evolution of Healthcare Technology: From Paper Records to EHRs

In the past two decades, the US government has been urging the Healthcare Industry to adopt better cybersecurity measures to protect patient data as well as to improve interoperability standards. With the implementation of HIPAA in 2003 and the HITECH Act in 2009, hospitals and health systems began the race to ditch paper records and migrate to EHRs, capitalizing on the incentives to modernize healthcare technology across their practices and adhere to new industry standards. Though it may have taken years to finish implementation and training, a common mission produced necessary endurance - providing the best possible patient experience while protecting, connecting and optimizing patient data. 

And in the past decade, a new theme in healthcare has emerged that built upon the foundation of improvements in these healthcare security and technology standards. This approach prioritizes patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness in delivering high-quality care, placing the patient at the center of the healthcare transaction. 

In their article titled Value-Based Health Care at an Inflection Point: A Global Agenda for the Next Decade, the New England Journal of Medicine says that “despite the rapid evolution of digital health, it remains the case that the healthcare industry as a whole lags behind other industries such as finance or retail in the development of powerful digital applications founded on AI, predictive analytics, and big data. In particular, the lack of agreed-upon metrics and comprehensive standards for what technologists call interoperability (the capacity to easily share and link data from a variety of sources) has so far limited our ability to leverage such techniques to fundamentally improve clinical decision-making.” 

The reality that healthcare lags behind other industries, impacting something as critical as clinical decision-making, plays a key factor in poor patient experience. Most patients are conditioned to expect the same level of efficiency in healthcare as they do from other industries, and when they have an experience like Jane Doe, it quickly erodes trust in the system itself. 

Research published in the article Patient experience and hospital profitability: Is there a link? by Jason P Richter, PHD and David B. Muhlestein, PhD, JD “identified that a positive patient experience is associated with increased profitability and a negative patient experience is even more strongly associated with decreased profitability.”

If Jane Doe had been treated by a health system that was prepared to see her, already in possession of her prior medical images and knowledgeable on what was causing her pain, she would have avoided repeat radiation and most likely received a treatment plan the day of her appointment. She would have left the facility with peace of mind that her pain was taken seriously, her time and money were well spent and that she was on the path to regain her health. 

Medicom's Commitment to Excellence in Interoperability

At Medicom, we understand the pressures facing healthcare today and the history of digital transformation that has thoroughly exhausted IT, Administrative and Clinical teams across the country. We recognize the responsibility to maintain security, avoid data breaches, deliver quality care and stay afloat financially. And we know the patient experience, because we are all patients.

Medicom is one of very few health-tech vendors in the country singularly focused on interoperability in medical image exchange, and we are consumed with getting it right. We develop solutions that not only improve the clinician experience, but empower the organization-wide commitment to Value-based care and ultimately to the patient sitting in the exam room, waiting for a diagnosis. We are consistently finding that our customers experience significant return on their investments when adopting our solutions, both in improving the patient journey and eliminating financial waste from previously disjointed and manual image exchange workflows. 

Please join us in the upcoming blog series that will take a deeper dive into interoperability in healthcare and the Medicom approach. Explore how Medicom can seamlessly fit into almost any image exchange workflow, complement existing image exchange platforms and help clinicians keep their patients at the center of the healthcare experience.