Interoperability Could Reduce U.S. Healthcare Costs by Thirty Billion

Posted by Byron Osing on Wed, May 22, 2013

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Written by Byron Osing, Chair and CEO.

Complete interoperability would allow multiple medical systems and data bases to connect with one another, regardless of whether data is stored in the cloud, on a VNA or a PACS system. In the current state, if a physician wants to access pertinent information, they frequently need to do so in multiple systems, often supplied by competing manufacturers, which contain the patient records. This causes the physician to log in and out of each individual system, and still not get an entire view of the patient or history. The problem is amplified when the physician must search for images or records in a different facility that is geographically removed from their own. This requires the physician to have security credentials to access those systems in a different facility and the logging in and out required is an extremely time consuming and wasteful process.

Ideal state of interoperability in healthcare

If these systems were all inter-connected together into one “macro-system”, the physician could work at one location, instantly access and review all of the relevant information, render the treatment plan and provide follow-up for that patient quickly – reducing healthcare costs and time spent significantly.  There are two major hurdles that must be overcome if the vision of a healthcare macro-system could become a reality: (1) existing legacy systems from different manufacturers simply do not work well together, and (2) if patient images and records must be physically copied from one healthcare facility to another, there is a data ownership and a control issue that must be addressed.

Importance of integrated medical systems

It is a simple connection between revenue and Government payments to healthcare institutions based on how many patients they treat. If patient images or records are physically copied or moved away from a facility, the institution feels they are losing that patient for the future.  In blunt terms, healthcare institutions will simply not easily let patient data be physically or permanently copied away from their caretaking.  They do recognize that shared access to patient records, without loss of control, is in everyone’s interests to operate with greater cost efficiencies, and to improve patient care. The trick is: how to break through the difficult technical barriers that prevent real time shared access to patient data across disparate healthcare institutions.  

Reduce Healthcare Costs by breaking through technical barriers

The West Health Institute (WHI) recently testified to U.S. Congress, and released an estimate that system and device interoperability could save over $30 billion a year in the U.S. healthcare system alone, while simultaneously improving patient care and hospital safety. The implications for total potential healthcare cost savings across the global community, if this issue can be addressed with barrier breaking technology, are then massive. Naturally, this caught the attention of the medical community – any process that could save that much money while helping staff and patients deserves serious consideration. While some hospitals and medical practitioners have adopted electronic medical records (EMRs), these types of products are simply not a complete solution, particularly when attempting to deal with cross-institutional interoperability and data access,  sharing, and control issues.

Adoption of Electronic Medical Records is a step in the right direction but are not a complete solution

 The definition of a ‘comprehensive Electronic Health Record’ or EHR, is a solution that links  a variety of databases together, including those with information on reports, lab tests, images and vitals – almost everything a doctor requires when examining a patient. Physicians and hospital staff can use a comprehensive EHR to retrieve or modify various medical records at their will. The problem with the vast majority of existing EMR’s is that they lack a diagnostic image viewer or real time access to the current and historical images of a patient. This means that while medical staff can have accurate information, they only have part of the patient's story. Missing the images or having insufficient access to diagnostic quality images can be costly to the patient’s treatment and the healthcare system. Moreover, if the EMR system does not contain previous data, such as images or records that have been taken at an earlier point in time which are relevant to the patient’s history or a current diagnosis, but are stored at a different medical center, then the issue is once again magnified.

Calgary Scientific’s ResolutionMD™, diagnostic imaging software completes the interoperability puzzle

Calgary Scientific has uniquely architected ResolutionMD™ to solve these extremely difficult technical and operational barriers, and dramatically improve interoperability. The FDA cleared medical imaging software is capable of accessing all of the databases that link to PACs, VNA, or EMRs, no matter where the person attempting access is located. While regular medical image viewers require the physician to be present at the physical system, ResolutionMD allows them to access and diagnose what they see no matter where they are in the world, and never requires that patient images or data be physically transported outside of the firewall of the institution where the data is stored. The medical diagnosis software is available for both Apple and Android mobile devices, or can be used on any computing system with a browser, giving users immense flexibility when selecting which device they'd like to use, and when they want to use it, so it is truly a real time system that has been proven via research studies to save significant amounts of time per study for physicians using the system, compared to traditional PACs or other image viewing systems.

ResolutionMD offers other benefits that are associated with interoperability, such as the unique ability to instantly search and create a consolidated work list across multiple archives and various PACS and VNA systems. While all medical staff can pull up patient data at any time, medical personnel can also uniquely utilize the ResolutionMD solution to connect with one another.  If a physician in New York wants to get the second opinion of another physician who's across the coast in Los Angeles, or in a remote setting, it's now possible to do so instantly. While traditionally this process would require a lengthy delay, the industry unique capability of ResolutionMD allows the process to happen as if the two doctors were standing side by side. This ability helps ensure that hospitals offer the best quality diagnosis and treatment to their patients at any given time.

Some may worry about the expense, security, and even potential liability of moving this type of big data, which is also highly confidential and regulated, back and forth between physicians or institutions, which is a very real concern with traditional systems. However, ResolutionMD's unique and highly patented architecture removes this worry. The diagnostic imaging software is able to accomplish the desired level of integration and operational performance while not physically moving data, which is often referred to as a completely virtualized architecture that delivers to physicians the quick, secure access to the images and reports that they need.

Many of the healthcare industry’s thought leading institutions have now recognized the importance of systems interoperability, and the time & cost savings that come along with installing a new era technology like ResolutionMD.  It can be said that ‘time is money,’ and ‘time is health’ in the healthcare operations environment, and ResolutionMD improves upon both healthcare operational efficiencies, as well as the timeliness and overall quality of patient care delivered.

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