The challenges associated with connecting multiple, disparate EHR systems — be it ancillary provider or private clinic to hospital or health system, or any combo therein — are not to be taken lightly. Every data point in healthcare IT represents a potential decision-point that, in error or omission, has significant implications for patient outcomes. The driving force behind EHR integration efforts is often consolidating patient records to get a more comprehensive view, but amassing data alone could actually be more of a hindrance or even a risk, especially where liability is concerned. Throwing a laundry list of diagnoses, reports and labs at a physician isn’t going to improve patient outcomes. However, when the approach for EHR interfaces and creating interoperability is in pursuit of a meaningful view of medical records, then the ROIs associated with integration are within grasp and truly impactful for the hospital or health system.

Prioritize EHR Interfaces For Quick Wins At The Point Of Care

Not all data is created equal in terms of value, trustworthiness or accessibility. When EHR interface efforts are focused on the connectivity that will solve the most pressing problems for the health system, it’s far more likely that the juice will be worth the squeeze, as they say. Because this varies by community and health plan, it’s vital that interoperability leaders in a care setting create a sense of need and value for the various interfaces to better focus on where to start establishing immediate gains. Asking a private practice or ancillary provider to heavily engage their IT department for EHR integration can be a hard sell, but when the value proposition for both parties is well articulated and the intentionality of the connection is established, there’s a far better chance that the project will move forward well and with the right engagement.

Driving Population Health With Epic Interfaces

If one of the biggest challenges for population health management for a given community is getting radiology reports back into the hands of the PCPs or specialists who are soon-after working with patients to develop a care plan, for example, then there are a few key steps that could solve this sooner than later:

  1. Identify which radiology provider sees the majority of these at-risk patients (which may be different from the provider who sees just a majority of patients in general)
  2. Establish a relationship between the sponsoring entity (such as the Epic hospital) and the radiology groups to openly discuss needs and opportunities
  3. Learn about the healthcare IT capabilities of that radiology group, in terms of their tech stack, existing integration points, data standards in place, etc.
  4. Create a plan for bridging the gap in terms of capabilities and requirements to create interoperability between both entities (which could mean leveraging hospital resources or even funds to make it happen)
  5. Drive EHR integration to improve the speed at which the radiology reports are available to physicians in the EMR

It’s just that simple! …If only. These are the high level steps to making meaningful progress on overall integration progress that will benefit the whole care continuum because it focuses on a specific, local need.

Create an Epic Interface Roadmap For The Health System

Since we’ve established the value of starting EHR interface efforts with strategy, this is a great opportunity to speak to the importance of an integration roadmap to create short- and long-term steps toward interoperability. There are a few different approaches that a health system can take when it comes to identifying their roadmap, and it’s a very personal decision based on the unique, community-level needs, such as:

  1. Simplest to most complex data standards to learn-as-you-go
  2. Biggest to smallest provider partners to quickly close the data gap
  3. Well-established provider partners first to grasp low-hanging fruit

The driving point is that the Epic interface roadmap should reflect the capabilities and priorities of the collective community, as this will create a sense of shared value from the get-go. Gathering large amounts of data alone won’t solve problems; in fact, it could introduce a whole host of new, very messy ones. Prioritizing the right connections, implementing toward a bigger picture goal and testing interfaces mercilessly along the way can completely change the face of care delivery for providers and patients alike.