In some ways, it took a pandemic for the healthcare industry to accelerate new ways to deliver patient care. For example, a CDC study found that using telehealth for patient visits increased by up to 154 percent from 2019 to 2020. Now, this service is a permanent option for some major healthcare organizations, and it’s just one example of how dermatological interoperability is helping providers to move closer to incorporating technology with traditional patient care. 

A recent study determined that effective interoperability and communication are essential for a primary care system to successfully prevent illness, manage care across multiple providers, and reduce health care costs.

“To address patients’ needs, primary care physicians often must communicate and exchange information with specialists, hospitals and other care settings, social service providers—and, of course, the patients themselves,” says Muhammad Chebli of NextGen Healthcare.

But what is dermatological interoperability? If it’s the future of healthcare, how can we incorporate this technology in ways that help your practice run more efficiently and grow? Let’s first gain a better understanding of interoperability. Then, we’ll explore how interoperability can scale our practice with innovation that better organizes data, expands patient care options, and streamlines billing. 

What Is Interoperability?

For doctors who have already adopted EMR technology, you are closer than you think to full interoperability. “EMR interoperability is a system architecture that allows healthcare facilities to access, analyze, and share health data between systems, medical devices, and applications at a local or cross-organizational level,” explains Ivan Dunskiey, Demigos Healthcare founder and CEO.

Almost 90 percent of healthcare providers have implemented EMR technology into their workflow processes. As dermatologists work with EMR technology, here are six ways EMR can work for them. 

1. Ensures Compliance

Under the federal government’s direction, the healthcare industry is placing patients at the center of their care and medical information. Part of the 21st Century Cures Act entitles all patients to access their complete medical file upon request. 

In other words, providers must digitize their patient records so that patients can access their information. As patients take a more active role in their care, doctors can use these opportunities to develop open, trusting patient relationships. 

2. Standardizes Data

Is it a rash? Psoriasis? A lesion? 

It’s not uncommon for patients to be treated by more than one doctor at a time. With hard-copy record keeping, a healthcare provider may use different terms to describe the same thing. Using EMR interoperability standardizes those terms, which creates more accurate, reliable patient data. 

Also, with standardized data, other health service agencies can collect and analyze data about a specific skin condition, for instance, and note higher incidences of that particular disease in specific geographic regions. That, in turn, can launch discussions on the risks and determine if an area needs more resources. 

3. Expands Access to Services

Telehealth services and self-service patient portals are promising indicators of the evolution of care delivery options with interoperability. For the dermatology field, EMR and digital slides sometimes open up life-saving treatment options for malignancy cases. Regardless of clinic size and location, doctors can obtain expert opinions on dermatology cases and discuss results via remote.

4. Allows Access to a Complete Patient Medical Record

The more information a healthcare provider has, the better the diagnosis. Since patients only remember about 49 percent of the information they receive from their doctors, medical professionals must rely on thorough medical records. With digitized patient records, a healthcare provider not only sees their notes, but they can also read through the notes shared by other doctors.

When determining treatment options, a healthcare provider can refer to reported lifestyle habits or existing conditions being treated by another physician that could interfere with certain treatment plans. Accessing a complete patient record ensures effective care that won’t interfere with other treatments, medications, etc.

5. Faster Billing 

There are several reasons why digital patient records streamline the billing process. “Technology has enabled a huge transition in streamlining medical records storage and processing,” explains Greg Dondero, business development director at Healthcare Resource Group, Inc. “Electronic recordkeeping helps ensure that patient data is accurate, up to date, and easily accessible. It allows secure sharing of information with patients, providers and other healthcare workers, which ultimately reduces costs because of reduced manual paperwork.”

6. Saves Time

At this very moment, a collective “hah!” resounds from doctors who recently implemented a new EMR system. In fact, one of the most common complaints among doctors is how much time it takes to update patient records. One study estimates that surgeons, for example, spend almost two hours per day updating electronic health records. And they often update patient files at home in their spare time. 

As EMR technology evolves (and it will, as more doctors weigh in with feedback), so should your workflow design. For example, how do you handle patient check-ins? Can the patient verify insurance and contact information through a self-service portal before their appointment? Are there redundant tasks within your office workflow that can be automated? Can you schedule time each day for communication tasks or file updates? Partnering with a full-service digital dermpath lab like PathologyWatch can fast track your workflow WITH technology to help you save time and make it easier to scale your practice in conjunction with these innovations.  

No doubt about it: Interoperability is the future of EHR and EMR systems. A better understanding of the possibilities dermatological interoperability can bring to your patient care, billing, and data management is transformative for the future of your practice.