The Main Advantage of Interoperability in EHR Systems

Healthcare system interoperability is becoming increasingly important, especially among electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

Before EHR interoperability was established, medical practices faxed or copied, printed, and mailed a patient’s medical records to referred external providers. Today, nearly 90% of office-based physicians use EHRs to securely store their patients’ sensitive medical records, communicate with patients and care team members, order prescriptions, and manage external referrals with ease. But not all modern EHR systems are currently interoperable.

In 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services worked the Promoting Interoperability Program to encourage the development of interoperability among EHR software solutions.

In this article, we’ll explore what EHR interoperability entails and why it’s important: 


Defining Interoperability in EHR Systems

Establishing interoperability of electronic health record (EHR) systems helps healthcare providers seamlessly access and share data among different systems or practices. As a result, managing referrals, filling prescriptions, and new patient intake processes are more efficient and require less manual data entry. 

Overall, secure data exchanges and enhanced system accessibility allow care providers and pharmacists working on a patient’s team to quickly analyze relevant records, gaining a holistic view of the patient’s overall health. EHR interoperability also allows patients to access their medical records anytime electronically.

How To Achieve EHR Interoperability

Interoperability in EHR systems involves developing system integrations among various software and hardware applications that are both patient-facing and practice-facing to improve overall user experience and data accuracy. In order for an EHR to be deemed fully interoperable, it must have specialized integrations to address: 

  • How users interact with system applications
  • How EHR systems communicate and share information
  • How data is managed and processed
  • How applications are accessed and used on consumer devices

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has laid out three standardized levels of interoperability in EHR systems. 

  1. First, the EHR needs to establish foundational interoperability, which enables the EHR to securely send and receive data to partner systems.
  2. Next, the EHR must be able to transfer data in a format that is meaningful and structurally intact in both the sending and receiving systems. This is called structural interoperability.
  3. Finally, the EHR must meet semantic interoperability standards, which means the data is properly coded and easy to interpret in all shared databases.

Four Key Benefits of Interoperability in EHR Systems

Physicians, care teams, pharmacists, researchers studying patient populations, and patients all benefit from enhanced EHR interoperability. But why is it so encouraged? Here are four key reasons why electronic health records should be able to share patient information using standardized, easily accessible language, codes, and formats:

Enhanced security: When EHRs are properly secure, patient data can be safely shared among practices and providers. Compared to unprotected paper records, digital medical records are encrypted and require user authentications before sensitive records are accessed.

Patients receive more holistic, well-informed care: Many patients see multiple providers annually to manage acute and chronic medical conditions. EHR interoperability allows providers across a patient’s care team to share new medical data, lab results, and procedure notes in real-time. Interoperability among EHR systems establishes cohesion in medical care planning and improves overall quality of care.

Time and cost savings: Interoperable EHRs help reduce clerical errors and time associated with repetitive manual data entry across systems. With streamlined EHR systems with user-friendly interfaces, administrative teams and clinicians can allocate more time to patient care and spend less time managing paperwork and intakes.

Interoperability ties into meaningful use requirements: To meet the new Promoting Interoperability Program Standards, medical practices are encouraged to use a certified EHR. Certified EHRs must be interoperable to promote: the digital exchange of patient records and care coordination, patient engagement, public health, and privacy and security.

Working Above and Beyond EHR Interoperability

While EHR interoperability promotes data sharing among healthcare organizations, it’s also important to examine other time-saving opportunities to integrate your EHR. Here are some questions to consider regarding how your EHR integrates with the other software systems your practice uses:

  • Does your practice management or scheduling software transfer new patient data directly to your EHR, or does your staff need to make a new profile in each system? 
  • Does your EHR automatically transfer ICD-10 and CPT codes to your revenue cycle management or medical billing system?
  • Do your various software systems allow for easy updates from one program to the other without manually entering data sets in multiple places? 
  • Does your EHR meet Promoting Interoperability Program (formerly Meaningful Use) standards?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it may be time to consider an interoperable suite of medical practice software solutions. Ensuring streamlined data transfers among practice management, electronic health record systems, and revenue cycle management solutions can save practices enormous amounts of time while reducing errors.


With a five-star rated customer service team, Benchmark Solutions’ clients are in good hands

Is your practice looking for new ways to streamline data management and reduce administrative costs? Benchmark Solutions’ suite of practice management, electronic health record, and revenue cycle management software solutions are completely interoperable and fine-tuned to save medical practices time, optimize workflows, and maximize reimbursements.

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