A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Interoperability in healthcare is becoming increasingly important to the patient experience, public health, and patient safety.  Patients should be able to trust that when they see multiple providers at various doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and imaging facilities, and other locations, their health information is protected, accessible, and actionable.

Yet, research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that only 26% of hospitals successfully conduct all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

Improving this percentage is absolutely vital to patient safety and public health.  Consider how these two categories of patient safety are affected by inadequate levels of interoperability in healthcare:

Individual Patient Safety


According to the ONC’s study, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care and only 18% reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients.

Tragically, treating a patient without all necessary medical information can result in adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation, preventable pain and suffering, life-threatening medical errors, and even death.

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect patient safety.

At the very least, delays in access to relevant health data mean delays in treatment and extra discomfort, pain, or worry for patients and their family members as they wait.

Public Health & Safety


Public health reporting is critical for preventing/containing outbreaks of disease, preparing for health emergencies, investigating population health trends, educating communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, and informing and monitoring health policies.  Public health reporting, to local, state, and federal organizations like the CDC, is also hindered by poor interoperability in healthcare.

The ONC explains in an Issue Brief that for public health reporting:

“The goal is to move to seamless, real-time or near-real-time bidirectional exchange of data . . . This allows for the most complete and up-to-date record possible.” (p. 4)

The accuracy of public health reporting, and the strength of the health policies created from it, can only be as sound as a system’s interoperability capabilities will allow.

Fortunately, there is technology that can greatly improve individual patient safety and public health by creating true interoperability in healthcare and seamlessly integrating with healthcare IT systems.

This is an ethical issue – if we want to protect the public and patient safety, we must make interoperability in healthcare a top priority.


By Stephanie Salmich

GO GREEN and lower hospital costs.

Go Green to Reduce Hospital Waste & Lower Hospital Costs (Part 2 of 2)

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Go Green to Reduce Hospital Waste & Lower Hospital Costs (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Last week we discussed the effects of staff education on helping you reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs. Below are two more strategies to help you achieve these goals.

“Green” Supplies

GO GREEN and lower hospital costs.

“Green” supplies can lower hospital costs in the long run.

Many hospitals have increased their use of disposable medical supplies that hamper hospital and environmental sustainability efforts.  Health facilities can be drawn to single-use items that seem more convenient and cheaper upfront, but may cost more than “greener,” reusable items in the long run.

Practice Greenhealth’s Cost of Ownership Calculator can help you compare products and choose those with the lowest costs and smallest environmental impact.  This tool looks beyond the price tag of an item to examine every cost a hospital will incur during the “acquisition, use, maintenance, and disposal” of the product over its lifetime.

There are some items that you cannot avoid purchasing in disposable form, due to patient safety concerns and health regulations.  But where possible, reprocessed equipment can reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs.

Paperless Healthcare Solutions

Besides tossing disposable supplies, how much paper is your facility throwing out?  From completing registration paperwork and consent forms, to obtaining physician referrals and third party documents, hospitals are responsible for a great deal of paper consumption.  Fortunately, there are paperless healthcare solutions for managing each of these tasks:

1.)  You can automate patient registration by setting up a paperless registration system that is better for the environment and makes the registration process more accurate and efficient.

2.)  With an electronic healthcare forms library, there is no need to stockpile pre-printed forms that may go unused. Any form can be easily printed on-demand and updates to forms can be made electronically and in real-time, saving you from the cost and waste of destroying old versions that can no longer be used due to new revisions.  The need for blue cards and labels is also eliminated thanks to barcode automation.  Patients can even sign consent forms using electronic signature on electronic healthcare forms.

3.)  A physician order management system can help you electronically organize all incoming orders and referrals, regardless of source. Read here how one hospital reduced its paper usage by 1.3 million pages per year and eliminated 18,333 folders by going paperless with the solution ActiveXCHANGE.


Not only will these strategies help you reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs, but they will also increase your appeal to today’s consumers and top job candidates who are attracted to organizations that practice corporate social responsibility.  Establishing environmentally-friendly policies and procedures is an excellent way to do your part in protecting our world while also ensuring the sustainability of your own facility.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part blog series.


By Stephanie Salmich