The need for Interoperability: What I Learned Through my Experience

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Blog, Care Coordination

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In this article, I want to share my own experience of interacting with three medical institutions in one day. What started out as a normal weekend morning – some quality time with my two-year-old – turned into a day consumed by visits to two different ERs and a pediatric hospital. On this day, I had to repeat the problem to different doctors multiple times, describe previous findings and diagnoses, and at the same time remain restrained, put aside the worry for my child and focus on the problem so that the doctors could give him the best care possible.

ER Visit #1

My two-year-old likes to eat every meal and snack as if he’s training for one of those eating competitions – shoving food into his mouth at record pace. Since it was a Saturday, I let him have a little extra treat and gave him one of those little bites muffin packs. Shortly after eating, I noticed he was struggling to catch his breath.

It was clear he wasn’t fully choking, but it scared me enough to have my first trip to the ER with my child.

Thankfully, we were quickly discharged from the local hospital since his breathing was back to normal and his chest x-ray was clear.

Urgent Care and a Second ER Visit

Once we were home, we decided to go outside and enjoy the first day of spring in the backyard and have some lunch. That’s when the real trouble began – suddenly, my little guy was struggling to breathe and wheezing.

Knowing that we live ~30 minutes from a pediatric urgent care, we made the decision to skip the return to ER in favor of going to the pediatrician closest to us. We hoped it was just some residual reaction from the morning episode, and I’d be dismissed as an overly cautious parent. That was not the case.

After an exam and some nose suction to get mucus cleared out, we were told to go to the closest ER because his oxygen levels were low enough for them to be concerned.

At this point, we had visited two different health systems, and we were on our way to a third. All are located within 15-20 miles of each other. Luckily my son was checked out, given a breathing treatment, and we were discharged with a few follow-ups to do and a very tired toddler.

One thing I can say for sure – working in health tech has completely changed the lens I look through when I am dealing with my or my family’s healthcare encounters. So, here are some of the things I noticed in my marathon of a day dealing with the US healthcare system.

Resiliency of our amazing clinicians

The first and one of the main things I am, and probably always will be, is awed by the resilience of our healthcare workers. These professionals have been through hell with the COVID pandemic, and every single person we encountered that day, from techs to nurses to doctors, came into our room with a smile and a dose of compassion as they tried their best to comfort an anxious mom and an antsy kid.

Interoperability: improving access to healthcare

That day, I went to 3 different health systems in one day. They all have different EHRs that are not integrated with each other, but I really wish they were. By visit number three, I was almost out of breath trying to explain our day and remember all the things each doctor had said. I’m positive our process would have been better if each provider was able to share their notes in real-time. My role on that day should have mostly been “stressed out mom,” but I also had to be the “information hub”. What if I wasn’t able to be the information hub? While we all know family plays a critical role in care continuity, it shouldn’t be a requirement of receiving high-level care.

Why is interoperability important in healthcare?

Something I wasn’t very conscious of before I started working for CareAlign was how lacking health tech is for clinicians. Even with the most integrated EHR, each provider we saw had to click multiple times to do what seemed like simple tasks. Additionally, they had to do it while trying to get information from me and inputting it into multiple different screens. I can’t imagine how overloaded their brains are by the end of their shifts.

I have the unique privilege to be both an insider and an outsider in the healthcare world. Working in tech in healthcare, I can sympathize with clinicians’ frustrations more than the typical healthcare outsider would, but I have only experienced them from the patient’s point of view.

Once we had the “all clear” and knew our marathon day was ending, all I could reflect on was — imagine how much better our system would be for all of us with healthcare interoperability solutions employed to their full potential.

Healthcare tech: less clicks for workflow improvement

A keyboard or mouse click rarely takes more than a second. Today, most people tap their devices thousands of times a day without thinking about it. However, try clicking through multiple screens while trying to ensure you ask the right questions and input that information for your colleagues to see. That level of multitasking takes a large portion of clinicians’ cognitive load r – that would otherwise be fully focused on patient care. Why can’t we make it easier for clinicians to focus on their most important task – the patient.

Software for clinics should be intuitive to help doctors avoid unnecessary clicks. With the ideal switch from healthcare to tech, clinicians should always be involved in the software development process, bringing the two areas together in a way that results in a more functional and efficient system. Interoperability standards in healthcare can make it easier to integrate new software with the EHR, helping clinicians avoid unnecessary clicks and leading to higher levels of healthcare worker satisfaction and improved workflow.

Tech trends in healthcare

Interoperability challenges in healthcare can easily be improved through the implementation of the Care Orchestration platform. CareAlign CEO
Dr. Airan-Javia is a practicing hospitalist, which is why the software has all the necessary features that clinicians wish their EHR had. With our software, providers save up to 1 hour a day which you can use to communicate with patients. No complex software, no unnecessary clicks.