- The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the shortcomings of existing communication practices and counterintuitive data systems
- Interoperability and data management issues lead to mistakes
- Effective communication comes from an easy-to-use, scalable, and cohesive platform to get the right information to the right person quickly
Interoperability and ineffective data management were challenges for healthcare organizations pre-COVID and were magnified further during the pandemic. Healthcare leaders such as Angel Mena, MD, (Chief Medical Officer, Halo Health) and Steven Rube, MD (Senior Vice President, Global Clinical Services, IMO), agree that the present structure needs to be more intuitive, accessible, and sustainable.
In a Healthcare IT News podcast, they elaborate on this point, sharing insights into the ramifications of ineffective communication structures, and how COVID-19 required constant adaptation and improvements to interoperability.
COVID-19 Required Constant and Effective Interoperability
When asked about the impact of data management and exchange issues on safety, efficiency, and costs, Dr. Mena looked back on the beginning of the pandemic.
“We were just scrambling to figure out how to organize ourselves… The center of it was communication.” Dr. Mena remembers the many disruptions to quality care and effective communication as COVID-19 news and recommendations changed by the hour.
Interoperability struggles led to clinicians missing important COVID-19 information, patient treatment delays, and the inability for clinicians to adequately document patients’ status.
From a technology standpoint, Dr. Rube shared a story wherein a patient got more than one COVID test because of a lack of trust and effectiveness in data exchange. Data related to COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms, and vaccine status were all difficult to manage and exchange with current technology.
Data exchange was not only ineffective but often became impossible to coordinate due to the rapid changes and new information each day of the pandemic. Dr. Mena said, “With thousands of emails, it’s hard to get through [to someone].”
While COVID-19 magnified these interoperability problems, it has always been a concern from both the clinical and technology side. Dr. Mena added, “Whatever we implement in the world of healthcare, it needs to be very intuitive. Doctors aren’t trained in technological things. We need tools that are intuitive and scalable. We need sustainability.”
This point lends to the main concern of Dr. Rube, who discusses the need for granular language understood across the industry to make it easy for doctors to convey information and know what the next steps are for patients.
Effective Interoperability Improves Outcomes
“There was a learning curve for us to communicate. That’s why we need platforms that are scalable and so intuitive that people can gather the right information and use it for the right reasons,” Dr. Mena says.
With improvements to interoperability, adaptation and collaboration would be much simpler even in uncharted waters like COVID-19.
“A lot of COVID was how do I display data in a way people will be able to access to take action?”
With effective interoperability, all clinicians will have access to the full picture of each patient, leading to better health, safety, and financial outcomes.