By Susan DeCathelineau, vice president of global healthcare sales and services, Hyland Healthcare.
Healthcare interoperability continues to be a critical topic facing healthcare technology leaders. There’s no question that achieving true healthcare interoperability is key to moving the industry forward by enabling the type of information exchange that can streamline workflows, inform clinical decision making and enable precision medicine.
However, much of the current interoperability discussion is focused on ensuring core systems, i.e. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are compatible with one another. Yet there is one issue that is largely overlooked: the crucial role of integrating structured data with unstructured patient information.
For example, EMRs are designed to capture and manage structured patient data, and they do that job well. That is to say, they capture content using controlled vocabulary rather than narrative text. But the lack of structured data and standardization in the healthcare industry today creates major issues when sharing EMR content within and across healthcare organizations.
EMRs are not built to natively ingest the plethora of unstructured information that exists on a patient. This unstructured content includes things like diagnostic medical images, clinical documents and notes, visible light images and more. According to many industry estimates, as much as 75 percent of the information that exists on a patient lives outside of core applications like EHRs. Instead, this unstructured content is scattered in a multitude of legacy data silos.
Manage your unstructured clinical content
A recent whitepaper by Signify Research illustrates just how pervasive ineffective management of unstructured content is in today’s health systems, and just how vital this effort is to interoperability initiatives. In the paper, author Steve Holloway explains how the growth of healthcare networks resulting from merger and consolidation activity is driving the need for true interoperability. These ever-larger healthcare enterprises are increasing demand for incoming and outgoing information exchange between a diverse ecosystem of providers, patients and payers.
He continues to say that EMRs and health information exchanges have had “limited success in addressing the myriad of nuanced applications and unstructured content outside of core administrative patient records and financial billing processes.”
Holloway proposes that support for multi-disciplinary care and robust, multi-node interoperability will never be achieved without a more holistic approach to integrating structured and unstructured data.
Make the connection, see your whole patient
Providing a “holistic approach” to integrating structured and unstructured healthcare content is a core focus at Hyland Healthcare. Experience has shown that providing a suite of connected healthcare solutions allows healthcare providers to harness the unstructured content in every corner of their enterprise — whether it be a diagnostic medical image, clinical document, video file or audio recording — and link it to the core clinical or business applications they use every day. Addressing unstructured content needs is made possible by combining both a full suite of content services and enterprise imaging tools.
In short, healthcare providers – and by extension the entire healthcare enterprise – work best when it is possible to see your whole patient. By enhancing the EHR or other core clinical application with unstructured content that currently resides in disparate data silos, provider organizations can complete the patient picture. This delivers a truly comprehensive medical information repository at the fingertips of key healthcare stakeholders.
Also, with a more complete and accurate view of each patient, clinicians are often able to avoid redundancies in tests, imaging studies and the like. This ensures that the course of treatment for each patient is efficient and cost-effective for both patients and provider organizations.
This improved visibility and access has tremendous value. It streamlines clinical and business workflows. It facilitates information exchange and collaboration. It enables more informed clinical decision making.
And, it ultimately improves patient care and outcomes.