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Interoperability an important tool for addressing health care’s challenges


Sharing data across care teams can help reduce clinician burnout, improve patient care

Man's finger illuminating images representing interoperability ©


Health care is hurting. From clinical care providers to administrative support to the patients who rely on these care providers—everyone across the health care industry faces complex challenges each day.

Last year challenges came in many forms, including data breaches impacting health care that hit an all-time high, affecting well over 100 million people, and financial trends hurting health systems and hospitals, forcing layoffs in the health care sector to nearly double, compounding the care provider shortages caused by widespread burnout.

While we can’t ignore these realities, we should consider that there are bright spots, too, like innovative technology and advances in health intelligence sharing. In 2024, helping these bright spots shine brighter may be one way we can combat industry challenges and help health care heal itself.

Interoperability’s role in combatting burnout

Burnout among care providers is at crisis levels. One-third of physicians at academic medical institutions recently reported moderate or higher intent to leave their institution within the next two years. When researchers looked at factors that predicted intent to leave, burnout was the number one reason.

They’re not alone. Amid staffing shortages, pharmacists are also burned out and worried about the risks of doing more with less—and how a mistake could harm a patient in their care. It’s unlikely a coincidence that in 2022, pharmacy programs saw the largest drop in new graduates since 1983, despite the growing demand seen in the 20% increase in job postings for pharmacists between 2022 and 2023.

The bright spot here is clinical interoperability’s role in reducing administrative tasks that are considered one of the main drivers of burnout. When patient clinical and benefit information is where it needs to be it can make administrative processes, like prior authorizations, faster. This means less time spent by clinicians on the phone or faxing to move patient information through the process.

When clinicians have a more natural workflow, they can focus on caring for patients—the bright spot that can outshine burnout any day.

Opportunities for innovative care mdodels

We know that today, technology is enabling clinicians and health care organizations to send and receive health information across all care settings safely and securely.

And it’s helping clinicians, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and pharmacists among other care providers, to work collaboratively and care for patients as a team.

This is a change from what had previously been a more siloed system of care. Born out of necessity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the evolving care team continues to be a key factor, ensuring care remains accessible for patients across the country.

Research shows that nearly half of all U.S. counties, 3,233 in total, have too few primary care providers (PCPs), with just one PCP for every 1,500 people.

The bright spot here is that pharmacists, who are playing an ever-larger role in filling patient care gaps and helping reduce the cost of care, may be able to help fill some essential gaps in care.

The research cited above also shows that 61% of counties with a PCP shortage also have a high or medium volume of retail pharmacies, an opportunity for pharmacists to address unmet needs in patient care.

And they are doing just that, as another 2023 study calculated that pharmacist-led interventions for patients with high blood pressure could save over $10,000 in care costs per patient.

And it’s bringing to light the growing momentum behind value-based care models and how they can address clinician shortages by incenting collaborative care teams to focus on helping patients avoid significant, resource-intensive care events. Another study found that in 2022, value-based care programs prevented more than 200,000 inpatient admissions and 146,000 emergency department visits and patient experience and satisfaction was 18% higher under value-based care.

In the next year, we will continue to see innovative technology that simplifies patient data sharing, creating efficiencies across patient care teams. It is more important than ever as clinical care teams evolve and expand that they have access to patient intelligence to truly enable collaboration.

The broader health care industry has a distinct opportunity to strengthen its commitment to ensuring care providers have the information they need to provide quality and less costly care for their patients. And it’s one of the bright spots we ought to let outshine the challenges in health care in 2024.

Melanie Marcus is chief marketing and customer experience officer for Surescripts.

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