Improving health data exchange for more cohesive, informed care

Oracle Health | April 27, 2023

Through evolving regulations, industry collaboration, and technological advancements, health information is finally flowing for many providers after years spent working toward making health data exchange possible. This spring the first round of applications for qualified health information network (QHIN) under the federal Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) were accepted to begin testing, including CommonWell Health Alliance—of which Cerner, now Oracle Health, became a founding member nearly a decade ago.

This industry collaboration through TEFCA represents a leap forward in achieving our vision for interoperability, which includes nationwide health information exchange that enables patient health history to flow across systems and venues of care so patients can be confident their providers have the full picture regarding their care—regardless of where that care is received.

However, with data exchange comes the new challenge of information overload; providers are now flooded with more information than they can possibly reconcile, and insightful data from outside records often goes unseen and underutilized. To unlock the potential of health data exchange and realize the true possibilities of electronic records, clinicians need simplified workflows that make data standardized, usable, and actionable for a cleansed, holistic view of a patient’s healthcare history.

Actionable data and improved workflow efficiencies

A single patient generates a multitude of health data each time they receive care. In just one visit, data collection occurs from the moment patients arrive until the time they leave, and every electronic health record (EHR) entry and device generate more data. A critical step toward improving care outcomes is making this volume of data useful and actionable.

Historically, patients and their clinicians have been expected to connect the dots associated with their care. Whether spanning different EHRs, networks, facilities, or even floors within the same hospital, the end user has traditionally been responsible for integrating and connecting historical health data. Clinicians spend more time in their EHRs, manually searching and inputting patient information, than they do in face-to-face patient interactions.

To provide better experiences for patients, clinicians, and front- and back-office staff, it’s important that organizations put the onus on technology. Improving the user experience begins with intuitive workflows that make the end user experience easier and faster—all with fewer clicks. These workflows must better manage external data and provide a clear history of the data’s source.

Cross-industry data standardization

Though health data is now exchanged between more organizations than ever before, data standardization has yet to be fully tackled within many proprietary systems across care settings and is therefore preventing true interoperability. Critical to achieving interoperability is organization adoption of advanced, widely accepted national data exchange specifications such as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) and the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI), which help ensure data is able to flow across the healthcare system by establishing specific standards and criteria for exchange.

“Utilizing a common language to connect disparate systems is a critical step toward semantic interoperability, in which exchanged data is understood by each system without intervention,” says Ali Thole, senior product manager at Oracle Health. “The longitudinal health record begins with standardized data; for providers to understand these records and make informed health decisions for their patients, all data must speak the same language.”

True interoperability crosses care settings, and data standardization efforts must also extend to settings requiring increased privacy and compliance, such as mental health and substance use disorder care. Connecting the entire healthcare system is complex, but by increasing data standardization across organizations, data can flow to the right place in the chart to offer providers more comprehensive insights into a patient’s care history to support effective clinical decision-making.

How can Oracle Health help?

Oracle Health Seamless Exchange incorporates data from nationwide interoperability networks into the local record for a more holistic view of a patient’s medical history. Through simplified workflows and actionable data, Seamless Exchange enables clinicians to spend more time with their patients and less time searching for data.

“Clinicians need interoperability to ‘just work’ as part of the care process—which means as fractured and inconsistent as the data coming in from various systems may be, by the time it hits their workflow it has to be usable, meaningful, and straightforward. We get there by exchanging more accurate, complete, and consistent data, and cleaning it up for them using intelligent systems,” says Sam Lambson, vice president of interoperability at Oracle Health. “Getting interoperability right may help reduce EHR-related burnout by enabling clinicians to spend less time hopping around the various data formats and allows them more time providing informed, quality patient care.”

As organizations work toward reconciling external records with local records—making third-party data part of provider workflows—data becomes increasingly complex, and there’s more of it to sift through. As a result, many provider organizations “turn off” outside data, and that’s why so much data, upon which optimal patient outcomes may rely, is ultimately unutilized. Seamless Exchange removes and filters data from internal and external sources to provide unique, high-quality information that helps clinicians make the best care decisions for their patients. Organizations can also identify other venues of care as trusted outside sources, enabling the flexibility to designate discrete clinical concepts to autowrite into the local record and decreasing the time spent reconciling data.

Leveraging Seamless Exchange, clinicians can also make use of new discrete and narrative data—including medical problems, allergies, medications, immunizations, procedures, labs, documents, vitals, and encounters—in near real-time for an up-to-date understanding of a patient’s health and previous care received. This enhanced visibility into patient care across the continuum better supports clinical decision-making by helping ensure actionable data is always available at the point of care.

“Seamless Exchange simplifies health data and organizes it into consumable, useful information—from both internal and external sources—for clinicians,” says Margo Jackson, lead product manager at Oracle Health. “The result is simplified, intuitive workflows that provide a holistic view of a patient’s healthcare history and bring us one step closer to a connected healthcare ecosystem.”

The future of interoperability

Ultimately, to improve care delivery and patient outcomes, end users need access to pertinent and timely information, and they must have confidence the data is complete and accurate so they can make informed care decisions. Efforts to improve data standardization and integrity will speed the movement of data between healthcare organizations and ensure high-quality data supports high-quality decision making at the right time.

But these efforts must be collaborative. To achieve the full potential of interoperability and build upon the progress we’ve already made, there needs to be cross-industry buy-in. As we look toward the future, organizations must work in tandem to simplify the workflows within which we all operate, and to ensure the data exchanged is actionable and follows industry standards. Together as an industry, we can achieve the end goal of connecting health systems and the data they generate to create a complete, interoperable network with the patient at the center.

Learn more about Oracle Health Seamless Exchange.

Oracle Health

Oracle Health is building an open healthcare platform with intelligent tools for data-driven, people-centric healthcare experiences to connect consumers, healthcare providers, payers, public health, and life sciences.