Interoperability must become more than a buzz word in the healthcare industry. For healthcare providers today, it is time to go beyond the technical sharing of data to look at the outcomes healthcare organizations and their consumers receive from data sharing and integration.

Picture this scenario:

A consumer, “Jeff,” is being treated for depression with a psychotropic medication. He is also experiencing high blood pressure and headaches. When Jeff visits his primary care physician, he fails to mention his depression and cannot remember the name of his medication. The PCP prescribes another drug to lower Jeff’s blood pressure, which he believes is the cause of the headaches. The new medication is contrary to the anti-depressant and Jeff ends up in the hospital. Care was jeopardized because the physician did not have visibility to the care of the whole person. CoMorbid

This scenario is not uncommon, even today with the push for greater data sharing.

When providers fail to share data, the burden of communication falls on the consumer, who may or may not be able to communicate his/her health history, current list of medications or diagnoses at the time of service. Failure to share data also can lead to duplicate testing and medication errors, which are both dangerous and costly. Being able to pull medical history when consumers can’t speak for themselves can be life-saving or life-altering.

It is time to break down these silos to focus on the end result: better client care, experiences and outcomes.

Now picture this scenario:

A consumer, “Martha,” enters an addictions treatment program. The clinician queries her record through a Health Information Exchange (HIE). It shows she has presented at the emergency room regularly over the past year. Martha is a victim of domestic violence. Armed with this information, the clinician can put in place a more appropriate treatment plan and a discharge plan that will enable a safer and more successful recovery.

Too often, providers look at interoperability as the ability to check the data-sharing box for Meaningful Use of an EHR. When data comes in, it must be looked at and leveraged into the clinical workflow… otherwise it was just exchanged information and not interoperability.

Healthcare should be a collaboration. We should be promoting wellness and recovery instead of data ownership. The competitive advantage is for the consumer when we treat the whole person.