How to Achieve Meaningful Interoperability When It Comes to Critical Supply Chain Data

According to HIMSS, interoperability “is the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (systems) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of informationand optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.”

Interoperability – the ability of hospital systems to share information and work together – may sound simple, but the actual successful execution of it is far from it. However, we all know that it’s absolutely essential for the smooth and efficient running of these complex organizations that patients rely on to provide quality care. Interoperability creates a richer data environment that fosters efficiency, transparency, communication, clarity, and greater visibility.

Which systems are we talking about and why is information-sharing important?

The big systems are clinical (e.g. imaging), ERP (e.g. placing orders and paying vendors), clinical documentation (e.g. hemodynamic), supply chain, scheduling, and billing, each one of which produces rich and important data and data analytics. 

Without interoperability, there is a huge UDI data gap between ERP and clinical documentation systems. This gap can mask the need for product replenishment and reordering, resulting in disastrous consequences if needed products aren’t available for procedures, to share just one example. By bridging the gap between key caregiver-facing systems (e.g., patient billing, charting, documentation) and key hospital administrative systems (e.g., IT, finance, supply chain), hospitals can track products throughout their life cycle, ensure accurate billing, maintain a lean and at par inventory, and manage recalls and expirations effectively. 

It certainly seems obvious why product usage at the point of care needs to be linked to ordering and reordering. But insurance companies today are also asking for information about which specific products are being used in procedures (including pedigree information, like lot and serial numbers). Manufacturers are also asking for specifics, and want proof that you’ve used a specific stent, for example, before sending you another one. 

Intersystem sharing at this level of granularity clearly helps to ensure better managed inventory and consignment programs which, in turn, avoids wastage due to damaged, expired, and unaccounted for supplies and devices. The importance of reliable UDI data capture and dissemination cannot be overstated – it has a tremendous impact on all hospital systems, from clinical to financial. 

How is interoperability achieved? 

In order to ensure the seamless exchange of information between the various hospital systems, there must be effective interfaces by which to communicate this information. The process of creating interfaces is essential for interoperability, but it involves a lot of complex components with a variety of constraints and limitations. Interfaces are challenging in part because the environment in hospitals is so varied – there are many different systems from different eras – legacy, cloud, homegrown, etc. – so building an interface is not a one-size-fits-all process. The needs of users might also be idiosyncratic based on what service line they have – the Cath lab, for example, is different from GI or the OR, and there are specific regulations depending on the department that affect the kind of interface that’s needed. 

How to overcome obstacles to achieving meaningful interoperability?

There are some common constraints in IT systems implementations or integrations projects that can hinder interoperability, such as certain departments being restricted to a specific system design that necessitates the building of workarounds or additional steps for users, or EMR systems not being optimized for user workflows (but instead for revenue optimization). 

Sitting between MMIS and clinical documentation and billing, VUEMED’s automated technology solutions create tremendous opportunities for information-sharing and effective communication between these hospital systems because they capture UDI data with near-perfect accuracy and then ensure dissemination across all relevant systems. Our solutions ensure optimized user workflows, comprehensive and accessible data for both financial and clinical reporting, and cost-effective ways to maintain and scale systems and interfaces.

We provide interface engines through our technology that allows systems to connect and exchange information and feed data into each other in a powerful way that supplements and complements the information that each system is generating on its own. Interoperability enables hospital systems to bring more value by solving problems and creating new information together

The future – no longer science fiction

Looking into the very near future, will AI be better able to make sense of all this data and extract more clearly the value it represents in the rough? Could AI map for us what we should do with the data – redesign the flow of information and optimize it so that it’s more practical and valuable, for example? AI offers great potential for improvement and guidance based on data; however, it’s imperative to capture the right data accurately, consistently, and comprehensively – otherwise, any analysis will be misguided and unreliable, AI or no AI.