There has been an increasing trend towards consolidation in the healthcare field. Hospital systems buy other hospital systems, with the promise of cost-savings, improved results, and better data-sharing and interoperability.
In many ways, this is common sense. If we’re all part of the same organization, or even under the same roof, it stands to reason that we will be able to share data and collaborate more effectively.
Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Using data from the 2014 American Hospital Association (AHA) annual survey and the 2015 IT supplement that included more than 2,000 hospitals, researchers found that consolidation enough wasn’t enough to improve interoperability.
In fact, it took several additional circumstances for interoperability to improve: centralized organizational governance, a specific business model, and an integrated insurance offering.
Of course, achieving interoperability and data sharing is a hugely complex endeavor that can take time to come to fruition. It's not a race, and there are many precautions and complications that arise.
That said, I find it fascinating that even merging with another organization doesn't necessarily make it more streamlined for healthcare providers to collaborate, for data sharing to happen, or for interoperability to be a reality.
My take on why? I believe that true data sharing and healthcare collaboration only come about through intention and through workflow changes on the part of healthcare providers. Yes, the organizational structure affects it. Yes, EHR interoperability plays a role. Yes, being under the same roof can make collaboration simpler than being in separate buildings. But ultimately, healthcare collaboration comes down to the choices that individual healthcare providers make. It's the choice to ask a question of a colleague, regardless of how that question gets asked.
That's why we're so passionate about hybrid store-and-forward telemedicine® (like iClickCare) as a tool for healthcare collaboration. It doesn't require being under the same roof, or in the same organization, or even using the same EMR/EHR to collaborate, share information, and coordinate. It doesn't require that everyone in your organization use it or that everyone is "on board." It just requires a 30-second download and then as-you-have-time consults with colleagues. Everything is archived so you can find it later -- and it won't conflict with your EHR.
The above study certainly demonstrates that we can't wait for large structural shifts to practice medicine in ways that we think are right, and useful. We have access to the tools and structures we need now -- it's just a matter of acting on that.