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5 tips for interoperability success in the "merger mania" era

The shift to value-based care has caused a number of mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships, prompting experts to call 2016 the year of “merger mania” in health care. While these strategies offer benefits and economies of scale, they also introduce new challenges when it comes to integrating clinical data.

Allscripts interviewed industry leaders about the interoperability challenges they face as healthcare organizations align, and how they are forging ahead with quality care, population health and analytics initiatives. Here are five tips from the experts on how to position for success in a value-based world:

1. Recognize the cultural aspects of change

“Right now, we’re in an environment that has nine different electronic health records and 14 different practice management systems across all practices. We’ve tried for years to get the right level of interoperability in place. But it’s a significant shift. Not just in terms of technology, but also culture. One of the biggest challenges that our providers face in this transition is a sense of loss of control. They’re really fighting to maintain their independence while at the same time recognizing they need to be part of this network to meet the requirements and regulations that they can’t meet on their own.”
Nael Hafez, Chief Information Officer, Pediatric Physician’s Organization at Children’s (PPOC)

2. Set the tone with strong clinical leadership

“There’s no secret sauce here. In order to set the tone, the objectives and the improvements in efficiencies that will affect care delivery, you need that strong clinical leadership in place…and that starts at the top. When that tone is set, and the message and objectives are understood, you’ll find you have buy-in across the board.”
Jim Feen, CHCIO, Associate CIO, Southcoast Health

3. Define common, clinically relevant data sets

“Some of the workflow issues we face are really aggravating for patients. Caregivers may have to ask patients for extra specifics on a medication because they can’t get data in a particular format. In some cases, it’s still just easier to just ask the patient again…So we are putting a big emphasis on defining common data sets. To really understanding what the caregiver needs to know to make good decisions. It’s all about looking at interoperability from the lens of the clinician’s use, and sometimes it can’t all be done at one time.”
Phyllis Teater, Chief Information Officer, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

4. Connect with standardized, reusable components

“We’ve got almost 1,200 offices sending immunizations to the state. That was based on building a single transport pipe with an efficient way of connecting folks to that one pipe that allows us to scale without a lot of project activity and redoing a whole interface all over again…So getting out there, interacting with different partners and vendors to put a process in place where we can leverage one connection along with standardized, reusable components so we don’t have to rebuild everything from scratch every time someone else joins our network.”
Doug Dietzman, Executive Director, Great Lakes Health Connect

5. Beware rip-and-replace strategies

The last tip comes from my own experience in the health IT industry, with many cautionary tales about starting over with a new technology. Rip-and-replace can take years, requiring intense redirection of resources and a disruption to care. You run the risk of a cost overrun. And we’re seeing the impacts of those overruns as executives lose their jobs and hospitals are blaming their budget issues on the cost of their EHR. Instead, it’s possible to leverage technology platforms that you already have in place to minimize the cost and disruption.

Editor’s note: Want to learn more from the experts? Download a free white paper: Truly Connected: Clinical Data Integration Strategies in the Merger and Acquisition Era.


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