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5 lessons learned from a decade of interoperability

UPMC is a leader in health IT innovation, and one area where it has excelled is with interoperability. One of the largest health systems in the country, UPMC launched an interoperability project in the mid-2000s to connect multiple electronic health record (EHR) systems along with other data sources. It now manages a comprehensive lifetime record of care for more than 8 million patients across western Pennsylvania.

In a recent case study, UPMC team members shared insights learned from more than a decade of interoperability work. Here are a few of those lessons learned:

1. A multiple-EHR approach requires strong data harmonization capabilities

Because UPMC uses a multi-EHR platform approach, with Cerner in the inpatient areas and Epic in ambulatory, it needed to find a way for these systems to talk with each other.

“Software engineering consultants recommended that we find a solution with strong capabilities in data harmonization,” Director of Interoperability Diane Michalec, MSN, RN, said.

2. Providers need information within their workflows

When designing an interoperability workflow, UPMC understood the importance of having it be seamless for providers.

“We’re moving into a world where the clinicians can have too much data presented to them, which doesn’t work when they need to focus on patients.” Michalec said.

3. Can’t predict all the potential uses

There are unexpected benefits of making an interoperability solution available to a wide range of users.

“Physicians are clinical decision makers, but information gatherers are everywhere,” Informatics Nurse Nancy Gorsha said. As an example, “A staff member from the UPMC Injury Prevention Center reviews information found in [UPMCs interoperability solution] to determine if there might be a commercial product that contributed to, or was responsible for, the incident that brought the patient to the UPMC Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.”

4. Access to data will affect clinical decision making

Access to this data influences care delivery. A 2012 UPMC survey revealed that two out of three providers reported the information presented in dbMotion directly affects clinical decision making and helped determine their plan of care.

5. Better information, less duplication

“From a clinical perspective, the value that an interoperability platform brings is immeasurable…it’s huge in preventing duplication of care, treatment and services,” Informatics Nurse Nancy Gorsha said. “Back in the day in the emergency room, if a patient came in and needed a CT scan, we always just did one. Now we can launch the interoperability solution, check for recent CT scans, review existing results and decide if the patient really needs one or not.”

UPMC is an excellent example of what can be accomplished with a focus on interoperability. By bringing together data from 78 source systems, and presenting it in a meaningful way at the point of care, it is improving clinical decision making at every patient encounter. UPMC’s vision and approach will continue to enable success as healthcare evolves toward value-based care models.

To learn more about UPMC’s decade of interoperability success, download a recent case study.

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