The Importance of Healthcare Interoperability to Care For Our Aging Population
Interoperability in healthcare, which is the ability to share, access and utilize important electronic health-related data, is becoming more and more essential in providing optimal healthcare to older individuals as aging populations continue to grow.
According to the 2020 United States Census, 54 million people out of the entire U.S. population of 328 million are over the age of 65, and by 2030, the count will increase to 74 million. Of these older Americans, two out of three of them are estimated to have at least two chronic physical or behavioral health problems, and treatment for people living with multiple chronic conditions currently accounts for an estimated 66% of the nation’s health care costs, according to research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
By implementing interoperability solutions across electronic health record (EHR) systems, physicians can quickly gather the information needed to provide streamlined, targeted care that can better improve patients’ wellbeing while also reducing their healthcare costs. Additionally, technology like remote monitoring and assistive devices can allow older Americans more freedom to live on their own in their homes longer while also giving friends, family and caregivers the ability to remotely monitor the health of their loved ones for better peace of mind.
As the health field continues to make a push toward increased interoperability, wider education in the fields of healthcare management, human resources management and nursing will be essential in leading these initiatives, navigating teams in best practices for utilizing EHR systems and other technology and providing optimal care to better patients’ lives and health.
An MBA in Human Resources Management from the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University can be a powerful tool for healthcare leaders seeking the most effective ways to motivate and train HR professionals to hire, retain and promote the best employees for interoperability initiatives as the demand and need for these technologies continues to grow.
Through the 39-credit, nationally-ranked program, students will strengthen their skills in collecting and analyzing data to support workforce decisions, fostering positive employee relations and designing and developing strategies to increase organizational effectiveness.
Below are targeted areas in which professionals can apply their skills to help further advance interoperability to improve healthcare for our aging population.
Remote Monitoring Devices
Remote monitoring devices, like wearable technology and electronic communication aids, can positively impact healthcare outcomes by ensuring elderly people have the proper care they need at home. The devices can also reduce the burden on healthcare and assisted living facilities with increasingly limited space since the technology allows older people to live safely in their own homes.
Helpful remote monitoring devices include:
- Watches enabled with GPS chips so family members or caregivers can track the whereabouts of loved ones
- Wearable technology that can send alerts to family or caregivers if a loved one falls, or allows them to push a button for help if they are having a medical emergency
- Installed systems that track air temperature changes, smoke or carbon monoxide, bed or chair occupancy and more
- Security camera systems that allow you to communicate and check-in with loved ones via a smartphone
- Smart devices that can provide data-driven insights throughout the day on a patient’s health to caregivers and healthcare workers
As we get older, routine activities can become more difficult for us to perform on our own. To give older people more freedom while also reducing the burden and workload on healthcare workers or caregivers, assistive devices can be an excellent resource. These devices are adaptive tools designed to aid an older adult’s mobility so they can perform daily necessary activities.
Helpful assistive devices include:
- Smart home hubs that can perform task commands like turning off lights, turning on a coffee maker, controlling TV volume, etc.
- A smart bath sensor that can keep water at a safe temperature and turn off the spout before it overflows
- Virtual assistants that can set reminders to take medication, set doctors appointments, update to-do lists and more
- Screen readers that can speak what’s on the screens of computers, smartphones and tablets to help the visually impaired
An electronic health record (EHR) is a secure digital patient health record that is easily accessible to healthcare teams. These systems are designed to store and share all-encompassing outlooks of a patient’s health, from medical history to treatment plans to laboratory and test results, so providers can give better, more targeted care while also streamlining workflow.
Though the use of EHRs has continued to increase in the United States, there is much to be done in creating an intuitive, integrated data system where records are consistently stored and accurately filed. If this can be achieved, physicians and healthcare providers can gain a broader understanding of their patients, patients can receive better care and organizations across the industry can gain a full outlook of how their services are utilized and the demand for them.
Cybersecurity is particularly important when it comes to health information, as the data is a prime target for cyberattacks since it is of high monetary and intelligence value to hackers. It is vital that organizations keep information secure to protect patients, and they are obligated to do so legally. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires health facilities and organizations to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. Patients must be assured that the health information they share with healthcare professionals will remain confidential.
To better protect patient information and health records from cyber attacks, organizations can improve their cybersecurity by:
- Utilizing tried and tested data storage systems
- Preparing for breaches and having strategic recovery plans in place
- Training healthcare workers and employees so they can better spot signs of attacks or phishing attempts
- Bettering healthcare workers’ understanding of computers and technology through programs like the Online Graduate Certificate in Computing Technology from Montclair State University
- -mproving skills in managing sensitive information such as medical histories, finance and analytics via programs like the Online MBA in Finance or a MBA in Business Analytics from Montclair State University
Secure Video Conferencing Platforms
Telehealth, which enables video or phone appointments between a patient and their health care practitioner, has been transformative in increasing access to healthcare and reducing burdens on healthcare providers. Instead of sitting in overcrowded waiting rooms, patients can simply connect with their healthcare practitioner or doctor via a quick scheduled video call. This is especially convenient for elderly folks who are housebound or in adult living facilities and have limited mobility.
Though telehealth has had positive impacts, it can also open the door for increased data breaches and cybersecurity attacks. It is pertinent that healthcare providers use secure video platforms or apps on company-provided devices to conduct appointments, which can help prevent data and information from being leaked, transmitted onto unsecured devices or hacked.
Compatible and Scalable Systems
Increasing the compatibility and scalability of computer systems in the healthcare industry is key for improving interoperability. Not only is it important to create systems that can easily communicate with one another and share patient information quickly, but they’ll also need to be able to take in increasing amounts of information without impacting efficiency.
Some challenges in reaching the above goals and implementing compatible and scalable computer systems include:
- Lack of budgets for installing the systems
- Modernizing “legacy systems” that organizations have used for decades
- Finding ways to use technology to better sift through large volumes of low-quality data
- Lack of storage for the data
- Constant demand for IT professionals who have acquired the skills needed to navigate system integration through programs like the MS in Applied IT degree at Montclair State University
Achieving interoperability will take time and commitment, but with the right education and training, advancing forward is all the more possible. Montclair State University offers a variety of programs designed to provide you with the necessary skills to lead the continued efforts in achieving interoperability to better care for aging populations. Email us or call us today with any questions you may have about our programs.
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