By this point, you already know that collaborative, patient-centered care models are the way of the future. It only makes sense. Providers cannot continue to operate in silos, because patients aren’t their diseases, conditions, or injuries; they’re whole people—and a whole person may require an entire team of practitioners working together to provide the best possible care at the best possible time in the most holistic way. In order to implement this new care methodology, though, we need interoperability in health care. Providers must be able to communicate with one another in real time—they must be able to seamlessly collect, analyze, use, and exchange data about their patients and their interventions. That way, everyone on a patient’s care team—from the hospital triage team to the outpatient physical therapy provider who continues care after the patient is discharged—is informed and knowledgeable about the whole picture, not just a tiny slice.

We’ve entered a data-driven world.

Speaking of data, with the demise of PQRS—and rehab therapists’ inability to fully participate in its replacement program, MIPS, until at least 2019—many providers thought they’d have a break from data collection. But, as WebPT’s president, Heidi Jannenga, explains in this post, that would be unwise. After all, the entire healthcare industry is moving into a data-driven paradigm—one that has far-reaching consequences, like informing future payment structures and influencing legislative decisions. The more therapists hold out, the harder it will be to catch up once it becomes mandatory.

Plus, there are several new alternative (a.k.a. bundled) payment models coming down the pipeline. In fact, one of the most rehab-relevant bundles—the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model—is already in effect. This program not only holds hospitals financially responsible for the outcomes of joint replacement cases, but also offers incentives for improved coordination with ancillary providers such as rehab therapists. Of course, for programs like this to be successful—and scalable—everyone in the entire care network must be able to communicate. And the best way to ensure efficient communication among providers is to implement systems that not only speak the same language, but also automatically exchange the information necessary to keep everyone up to date on each patient’s status. In fact, ancillary providers who aren’t using software with interoperable functionality won’t even be able to participate in these programs. Faxing notes back and forth isn’t going to cut it any longer.

And that new world requires standardization and interoperability.

As Jannenga writes in this Becker’s Healthcare article, there are two main barriers to our current data collection processes:

  • “the jumbled array of measures providers in different areas of practice are using to collect data, and
  • the lack of interoperability (i.e., connectivity) between the systems where the data is being collected and stored.”

Jannenga believes that to solve these problems, the healthcare industry must embrace standardization—“both in terms of quality measures and data-collection measures”—and the adoption of technology that supports data exchange. This will not only enable a patient’s care team to work together to better serve that patient, but also “reduce the costs associated with redundant or unnecessary care; improve the overall value of care; and arm healthcare providers and leaders with the data necessary to address healthcare needs at a population level.”

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But, interoperability does not mean uniformity.

As Jannenga also points out, interoperability and uniformity are not one in the same: “Achieving large-scale data-exchange doesn’t necessarily mean adopting one overarching data-collection technology,” she writes. “In fact, requiring providers in all disciplines to use the same system would entirely defeat the purpose of the solution, as it would be impossible to create a system that’s optimized for every provider’s specific needs and workflows.” Rather, Jannenga argues that all providers should be equipped with technological solutions that enable them to document “in a way that aligns with their individual treatment workflows—and then share that information in a way that preserves the integrity and meaning of the data.” Without that, “details crucial to a patient’s case could be lost in translation from one specialist to the next—thus detracting from the benefits of collecting quality data in the first place.” Hence, the case for specialized software as opposed to universal adoption of a one-size-fits-all EHR behemoth—because really, one size never actually fits all.

Wondering what you can do to prepare your clinic for the shift toward collaborative care and interoperability? As WebPT’s Brooke Andrus explains in this post, providers should demand technology that:

  • “aligns with their clinical needs and workflows,
  • “tracks patient data—including outcomes data—in a meaningful and scalable manner, and
  • “plans to integrate and exchange data with other systems at some point in the (hopefully near) future.”

We don’t have to tell you that your patients—and your place in the greater healthcare community—are worth it. After all, sharing is caring.