May 14, 2019

4 Best Practices for Successful EHR Data Integration

Dave Levin, MD

Chief Medical Officer

Research shows that over 95 percent of healthcare providers have deployed EHR technology. However, successful EHR integration remains a significant challenge, resulting in higher costs, negative outcomes, and reduced efficiency.

Successful data integration has become the number one concern for healthcare organizations, especially with the current information glut arising from increased streams of pharma, R&D, clinical, claims, and patient monitoring, sentiment and behavioral data. A BIS Research report predicts that the overall volume of healthcare data worldwide will reach 2,314 exabytes by 2020.

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With providers preferring to extract patient data from EHR systems and a large number of disparate EHR systems in use, successful EHR data integration is key to achieving data-driven healthcare and more positive outcomes. With advancements in the development of IoT, apps, and wearables for healthcare applications, as well as industry trends and reforms encouraging increased adoption of EHRs, there is an urgent need to ensure smooth data exchange between these disparate technologies.

Since most healthcare organizations make use of several different health information systems, synchronizing the information in these silos and connecting the dots through integration is of paramount importance. To help providers achieve these results, let’s take a look at best practices for successful EHR data integration.

Reduce or Eliminate Data Silos

While keeping data from research, billing, and EHR separate and secure sounds great in theory (particularly in today’s HIPAA- and privacy-driven world), there are consequences to such an approach. Keeping data in silos makes it difficult, if not impossible to properly integrate data. Furthermore, siloed data is no guarantee of safety – only proper data management delivers true privacy and security. And this can be achieved in an agile, integrated environment.

Standardize Data Formats

Complicating the issue of successful HR data integration is the plurality of data formats used in the healthcare industry to collect and store data. Most EHR systems support a limited number of data formats and organizations looking to assimilate data from two different systems would need to expend time, money, and resources on ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) tools.

Since different EHR systems will typically have different schemas or documentation practices, migrating, transforming and integrating data is a huge challenge since data is collated and stored in different formats (HL7 feeds, CCDA, X12 files, etc). Resolving this challenge would require health IT vendors to agree on the use of standard data sets and interoperability formats for data exchange.

Utilize Data Lakes

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Achieving successful EHR data integration is a challenge that has plagued providers and healthcare IT vendors for years. The advent of HL7 feeds and FHIR sparks hopes of true data integration and seamless interoperability in healthcare settings. Although these are viable solutions, the development of adaptive architectures such as data lakes and cutting-edge analytical tools may provide much-needed actionable intelligence necessary to unlock the true potential of EHR systems.

Leverage Robust API Solutions

Poor EHR data integrations lead to manual data entry – a major pain point for clinicians. Manual data entry is inefficient, time-consuming, costly, and reduces the amount of time clinicians dedicate to patient care – ultimately leading to adverse consequences on patient experience. Although data integration is the key to solving these challenges, the different ways in which vendors implement HL7 standards has made it difficult to successfully achieve EHR data integration.

Thankfully, the development of robust API solutions (like Integrate) has made the seamless exchange of data possible for EHR and EMR systems

These API solutions support rapid scalability for growing organizations by delivering turnkey integration across EHRs. Advanced authentication and encryption help ensure PHI security while delivering extensive, on-demand read-write capabilities and supporting bi-directional workflow interactions between EHRs and third-party applications.

With such robust API solutions, clinicians can obtain the data they need to make informed clinical decisions in real-time. Labor-intensive administrative functions (like manual chart retrieval processes) are simplified with an automated, efficient workflow that can pull unstructured and structured medical records for multiple patients with one call.

Improving the quality of care, empowering patients, and ensuring better clinical outcomes while reducing costs can be achieved with successful EHR data integration. With the global volume of patients’ medical records increasing at an alarming rate, the introduction of tighter and more complex regulations, and increased competition among healthcare providers and associated entities, successful EHR data integration is quickly becoming the differentiator in the delivery of care.

Data integration ensures that providers have access to up-to-date, comprehensive patient data so that clinical professionals and their teams can make data-driven decisions in real-time and deliver accurate diagnoses and more efficacious treatments. Healthcare leaders can also make better business decisions that drives quality improvement and cost reductions.

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