This article was originally posted on the Salesforce blog.
COVID-19 has overwhelmed governments and healthcare resources around the world. This crisis underscores the importance of interoperability — the ability for clinical and non-clinical health IT systems to talk to each other, exchange data, and make use of key information. I’ve spent years advocating the importance of interoperability with CIOs across healthcare providers, payers, and government agencies.
As IT looks for ways to combat the pandemic, there are immediate steps Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in the public sector and healthcare industry can and should take to support these systems now.
Together, we can accelerate interoperability and coordinate an effective global response to COVID-19. Here are three things we can do.
1. Patient self-service tools are more critical now than ever before
Applications that help patients self-service their needs have two key benefits. First, it alleviates patient anxiety. Next, it reduces the overwhelming demand currently facing the front lines of health systems.
This includes capabilities such as patient medical devices connected to care plans, patient-facing portals for obtaining up-to-date results, and even auto-dial messages to patients who test negative for COVID-19.
While automation and self-service tools can provide critical aid at a time like this, the biggest barrier to entry for CIOs is the ability to unlock the data necessary to power these initiatives. It’s especially challenging when you need custom interfaces built for systems like Electronic Health Records (EHRs), which can take months to complete.
Right now, speed is of the essence.
APIs can save CIOs significant time and resources by accelerating the production of self-service tools. For example, an API strategy that calls critical information from your EHR, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can help developers reuse those APIs for each of their respective patient-facing applications, and across other projects as well. Instead of starting from scratch each time, they benefit from reusing already-built standardized components.
This can be the difference between a project taking up to three months to complete versus getting multiple projects up and running within a matter of weeks.
2. Prioritize collaboration to connect systems, unlock powerful data sets, and quickly bring new patient resources online
It’s inspiring to see so many healthcare and public sector CIOs, architects, developers, and other IT specialists around the world coming together in this time of need. They’re working together to build APIs that provide truly life-saving insights on COVID-19.
ProgrammableWeb, covid19api.org, Postman, and data.gov are just a few of the global examples underway.
With one centralized exchange for resource collaboration, health system IT teams can find peace of mind and accomplish even more during stressful times. You should make this exchange the destination for finding and using high-value assets.
For example, IT can use an exchange to publish existing APIs, take advantage of pre-built templates, and collaborate on new needs. Over time, the exchange becomes populated with more and more published and reusable assets, eliminating the need to start from scratch every time. CIOs can free up their teams’ time to focus on innovation.
3. Use the data standard for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to simplify patient application needs
What’s the reason it’s often difficult for CIOs to stand up a new patient application quickly? One of the biggest challenges is managing millions of clinical message dependencies for the Health Level Seven Version 2 (HL7 V2) standard, which contains the key patient insights necessary for effective COVID-19 solutions.
It can take a great deal of time to surface patient messages, safely parse key patient data, and set up, test, and validate auditing and replay functionality to ensure message receipt across both clinical and non-clinical systems and applications.
Thankfully, the U.S. passed final rulings around interoperability just a few weeks ago. The rules promote the use of FHIR Release 4 (R4) as an alternate, lighter-weight clinical messaging model.
Many EHRs have already created FHIR APIs to surface this key information in a cleaner, more readable format. This makes it easier to transform the data via API design tools and map the necessary fields for new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
The future of healthcare depends on interoperability
I encourage everyone to learn more about the importance of interoperability and the impact it can have on our future. For further discussion around this topic, tune in to our webinar Achieving Interoperability in Healthcare with APIs or follow this series to learn more.
Stay safe and healthy.
To get more tips on navigating change, read other articles in our Leading Through Change series. Find thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis.
Join MuleSoft at Healthcare Innovation’s 2021 virtual healthcare delivery series on meeting interoperability and Federal data-sharing requirements.