- COVID-19 emphasized the need for interoperability in U.S. healthcare
- Interoperability might improve patient outcomes by streamlining communication between providers, specialists, payers, and other major players
- Patients remain skeptical about interoperability due to data privacy concerns
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how critical it is to streamline communication and information between providers and healthcare entities. Sharing data early on in the pandemic helped physicians and researchers track symptoms and identify at-risk patients. Interoperability can also help:
- Increase patient safety by better informing clinicians of a patient’s health history;
- Improve care coordination by sharing patient data, so providers do not have to enter patient data manually each time; and
- Save the healthcare system up to $30 billion a year by delivering the right data at the right time.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, patients appreciated the benefits that interoperability can bring. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this sentiment increased. However, although studies show that patients want the benefits that interoperability can provide, they remain hesitant to allow data sharing.
Data Privacy Concerns Around Interoperability
Data privacy has remained a major concern throughout the journey to interoperability. Eighty-one percent of American adults “support increased access to health information for patients and providers,” but only 34 percent of Americans believe that all providers should have the “same, most up-to-date information about a patient.” Those who objected stated they were “concerned about their privacy and/or security” or that they didn’t want their doctor to have information prior to an appointment. In fact, despite the benefits that interoperability can provide, 62 percent of Americans still do not believe their healthcare providers should share patient healthcare information with each other.
Although the survey results were inherently contradictory, patients clearly consider data privacy a major concern even at the risk of receiving lower-quality care. The incidence of healthcare breaches increased by 55.1 percent in 2020. Hacking and IT made up 67.3 percent of all these breaches and “exposed 91.2 percent of all breached records in healthcare.” Healthcare remains one of the most targeted industries by cyber-criminals and patients’ lack of trust in data privacy may, unfortunately, affect their care.
It is critical, therefore, that as interoperability becomes more prevalent in healthcare, organizations prioritize protection of patient data to help reconcile the gap between patient care needs and privacy concerns.