Here’s the thing: HIEs aren’t going away. Not only has significant investment (blood, sweat, and tears, to boot) been poured into the infrastructure for exchanging health information, but the need for a viable solution on this front is absolutely necessary. Coordinating care is not only an important logistical goal for cost savings and operational desires, but it saves lives. Think about that: our collective work to create health information exchanges that meaningfully close the gap between episodes of care and help intelligently intervene, benefits the business and living, breathing people. This level-set is vital so that we can acknowledge the very real challenges that HIEs face with a spirit of perseverance, and today we’re going to highlight three common challenges in healthcare interoperability.

Challenge 1: HIE Interoperability has Traditionally been Very Expensive

It is no small feat to establish interoperability across care providers. That being said, many of the solutions that have continued to gain traction year over year are those that rely on more robust EHRs and more sophisticated care organizations. Recent legislative pressure highlights that this reality has yet to include many hospitals from contributing even the most basic metrics (such as ADT notifications). While leveraging HIEs and highly-integrated software platforms is a great strategy to take bigger strides toward the goal of saturating a region with connectivity, sometimes the most critical data resides within clinics or care settings that simply cannot afford to show up.

When interfaces between healthcare IT products and vendors can run in the tens of thousands of dollars on average, it is very difficult for those in underdeveloped or underfunded communities and practices to be part of the bigger patient picture. So while acute care settings and general practitioners leveraging a shared stakeholder network may freely exchange information (via an HIE or EHR platform, for example), there is tremendous value in the long-term care facilities, rehabilitative clinics, radiology and laboratory providers, to name a few across the entire care continuum. that may operate right across the street. (So close, yet so far away.) Without a more egalitarian solution, information gaps persist, risk mitigation is finite, and cost containment is a mirage.

Challenge 2: The Realization of HIE Value is too far into the Future

We can all appreciate the promises of Health Information Exchanges and interoperable organizations across the care delivery spectrum. It’s a beautiful picture, and in light of last year’s events, there’s no question we need more access to information and analytics in healthcare. However, given the historical approaches to integrated solutions, the duration from kick-off to ROI is incredibly long. Painfully long. In fact, many care organizations never even make it that far due to exhausted funding, frustrated stakeholders, and/or changing requirements.

Interoperability must be simplified if there is any hope of efforts gaining traction and powerful use cases actually coming to fruition.

Challenge 3: Data for Data Sake isn’t a Win

Talk to a busy physician or medical staff, and it won’t take long to realize more isn’t always better when it comes to data. Liability aside, the bandwidth for care providers to click through dozens of PDFs or modules just to get a comprehensive view of their patients at the point of care is extremely limited. The mounting responsibility placed on the shoulders of doctors and nurses is incredible, and many are balking at the idea of more EHI dumped into their EHR (or charts…yes, they’re still out there). The key is capturing the (actually) important information, ensuring fidelity of that data, displaying that data in the right place, and exchanging discrete data across the care continuum to tap into analytics and clinical-decision support tools that could potentially alleviate the burden…and drive better choices for everyone.

Instead of focusing on data for data sake, rolling out monolithic solutions, or punting promises into the far off future, we have got to start focusing on simple, scalable solutions that bring everyone to the table. These common challenges that HIEs face are not going to disappear under legislative pressure or by sending good vibes. The industry must pivot and embrace partnerships to ensure connectivity and collaboration mark the next few decades of healthcare IT.