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Using Medical Cloud Computing for Interoperability

In the health sector, you'll often hear the term "interoperability" in reference to health records or similar kinds of data. That word refers to the compatibility between systems, applications or devices that allows them to connect and share information across organizations.

More specifically, there are various kinds of health care interoperability:

  • Foundational interoperability: Establishes the requirements for entities to connect for information-sharing purposes.
  • Structural interoperability: Related to the structure or the format of the exchanged data and ensures that the data gets transferred and received in an unaltered format.
  • Semantic interoperability: Refers to the ability of two or more parties to exchange, interpret and use information.
  • Organizational interoperability: Concerns the technical aspects of sharing information, plus things related to social, policy or organizational specifics. Here, interoperability gets built into end-user processes to support efficient workflows.

When it works as intended, interoperability helps people stay healthier because it allows relevant parties to securely access comprehensive information that gives them more thorough understandings of the health needs of individuals or sectors of the population. Achieving interoperability can be tricky, but cloud computing is facilitating the process.

That's likely one of the reasons why analysts predict the health care cloud computing to reach a market worth of more than $55 billion by 2025.

Major Cloud Computing Providers Support Interoperability Progress

Specific considerations apply to health information stored in the cloud. For example, some regulations keep health records secure, and parties that violate them are at risk of getting fined.

Many companies that offer cloud computing understand the distinctive needs of health care clients and build their systems so that users comply with data security needs as authorized users share information.

In February 2019, Google announced several new health partnerships intended to move the company towards its goal of better interoperability. One of them involves the SMART Advisory Council, which is a group working to integrate applications directly into health records. That's an example of how interoperability applies to apps as well as parties who want to share information.

Cloud computing can also assist medical coding professionals. These people must have a basic understanding of health procedures and diagnoses because they work with specialized codes when billing insurance companies.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is another cloud computing company, and 3M Health Information Services is one of its clients. 3M works with thousands of hospitals around the world to make their coding and clinical documentation workflows more efficient. Before 3M switched to AWS, it used multiple providers of cloud computing but found that approach significantly slowed down processing time. AWS sped up a key process by 20% without code changes.

Health Care Interoperability Encompasses Many Areas

Although many conversations about health care interoperability center on medical records, the potential does not stop there. For example, Change Healthcare, a vendor based in Nashville, Tennessee uses AWS for its cloud computing needs and recently announced it would provide several health interoperability services for free. They included identity management and a record locator service.

In this instance, health care brands such as hospitals have opportunities to get acquainted with how the cloud promotes interoperability progress. But, they don't need to make significant upfront investments to see what's possible.

Moreover, cloud-based faxing solutions move health care interoperability forward. The sector at large is still substantially dependent on sending faxes, but critics rightfully assert that legacy fax systems hinder interoperability and could pose security issues. But, when organizations in health care use cloud-based services to send faxes, they securely send information to the relevant parties while cutting out costs for fax equipment and supplies.

Interoperability Challenges Still Exist

The examples above highlight how cloud computing plays an instrumental role in enhancing interoperability in the medical field. However, research indicates that challenges remain. Stoltenberg Consulting conducted a poll of several hundred health IT executives to find out about their top concerns for 2019. The lack of system interoperability was the top problem cited, with 54% of the respondents mentioning it.

Additionally, 42% responded that their most-prioritized objective for this year is to update technology to improve the patient experience. Cloud computing speeds up the time required to transfer information to the parties that need it, plus it helps give a unified user experience to every health provider using a particular cloud computing platform.

Cloud computing will not be the single solution that solves every interoperability problem, and no one cloud provider has all the answers to meet medical interoperability requirements. But, as the examples here indicate, there is a growing and consistent push towards using cloud computing to accomplish some interoperability goals.

As providers and the clients using them continue to explore what's possible and which features make interoperability more streamlined, people will likely see more instances of cloud computing applied to interoperability needs. When that happens, individuals and populations should benefit as more providers have access to the information they need to provide the best care to the people who need it.

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About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a tech-loving blogger who writes and edits ProductivityBytes.com. Follow her on Twitter @productibytes to read all of her latest posts!
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2019 7:39 AM by David Marshall
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