The market for digital health technologies, such as wireless medical devices, telemedicine systems, blockchain, and others, is set to swell to $379 billion in value by 2024.
In tandem with the adoption of digital health technologies, healthcare organizations are also trying to understand the challenges of integrating those solutions with their electronic health record (EHR) systems.
This is understandable since EHR integrations are more than just technical challenges, such as APIs (i.e., protocols that enable different systems to communicate with one another), but issues that span across regulatory and organizational factors.
Before moving into that topic, let’s take a step back and briefly understand exactly what EHR integration is and why healthcare organizations need to be aware of it.
What are EHR Integrations?
At its most basic level, EHR integration is the integration of a digital health technology — such as a wireless vital signs monitor or analytics platform — to the EHR system.
The intended outcome of EHR integration is to be able to seamlessly share patient data from one electronic device to the EHR. One example could be a hospital that updates the patient’s EHR with information learned from their latest X-ray.
Certainly, there is no shortage of potential scenarios and digital health technologies offer a lot of promise. The healthcare industry is excited, but there are major barriers to EHR integration that must be overcome in order for that potential to materialize.
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The Top 5 EHR Integration & Interoperability Challenges
1. Integrating Third-Party Technologies
First, there is the technical challenge of integrating various third-party technologies to one another. Be it vital sign monitors, wearable devices, analytics platforms or others, you will need to ensure that they communicate with the EHR correctly.
Technical hiccups could result in additional work and other inefficiencies for your staff, especially clinicians. You might even run into the risk of data errors, which could then leave your clinic or hospital at risk of making mistakes — i.e., a cause for malpractice.
Fortunately, as with EHR interoperability, regulators are pushing the health technology industry to adopt standard information-exchange protocols. This will help the process.
2. Interoperability Between Different Vendors
The availability of standard information-exchange protocols or APIs is only one part of the battle. Each device vendor must also be willing to enable interoperability.
For EHR integration to work, interoperability must be possible across not only every EHR vendor but with every health-tech device and software vendor as well.
Besides technical interoperability, you must also ensure that the EHR integration works as intended from a practical standpoint. Integration shouldn’t slow your EHR system or result in crashes and system errors.
3. Clinician Workflow Concerns
The practical standpoint matters for your clinicians.
With physician burning being a major problem, the risk of EHR integration & EHR Interoperability making EHRs more difficult to use must be taken seriously.
Anything from adding to the difficulty curve of using EHR, slower loading speeds, or just adding to the non-patient work clinicians must do when using EHR will be a problem.
You cannot look at the technical sides of EHR integration in isolation of workflow issues.
Rather than pursuing EHR integration for its own sake, you should implement it as a well -planned strategy to improve your quality of care and clinician efficiency.
4. Security & Regulatory Challenges
By handling electronic protected health information (ePHI), your healthcare organization is accountable to HIPAA. You cannot afford insecure EHR integrations, that would place your ePHI data at risk of exposure and your organization at risk of costly penalties.
5. IT Infrastructure & Maintenance
As with EHR implementations, you should not underestimate the importance of your IT infrastructure when it comes to EHR integrations. For example, a network that encrypts all data communication between health devices is key for HIPAA compliance.
For More Insights on Implementing EHR, See:
- What are the Hidden Costs and Surprises in Your EHR
- Why You Need an EHR Optimization Plan
- The Biggest Mistakes You Made with EHR Implementation
Today, healthcare organization executives are taking both digital health technologies and the challenges of adopting them seriously. As of 2019, 79% of them said that leveraging new and emerging digital health initiatives was their top priority.
However, to get there, attention must be paid to your organization’s IT infrastructure. From the need to comply with HIPAA to ensuring that clinicians are able to work efficiently, your IT assets are an essential piece to each of the aforementioned challenges to EHR integration.
True North brings over the experience of successfully implementing 1,000+ healthcare IT projects over 14 years to the table. From managing your hospital or clinic’s IT systems to hosting your data in data centers that exceed HIPAA compliance and are 2X faster than the competition, we help you and your clinicians focus on properly treating patients.
Contact us today for a complimentary IT consultation.