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Interoperability becomes more than buzz word 

Interoperability becomes more than buzz word  ‘There’s real value and (health care providers) understand that now’ 

BOSTON – CommonWell Health Alliance recently marked 1 billion document retrievals passing through its network, a milestone that was sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic, says Nick Knowlton, chairman of the organization and a Brightree exec. 

“We’re running more transactions in a week than we did in an entire year in the beginning – we’ve seen a hockey stick uptake in interoperability,” said Knowlton, vice president, business development, for Brightree, in February. “The pandemic took some trends that were already emerging and turned those into rapidly accelerating trends.” 

Hear what Knowlton had to say about how the pandemic has highlighted the ability of interoperability to eliminate “blind spots” in patient care.  

HME News: Why are health care providers hitting the gas pedal on interoperability and why aren’t they turning back? 

Nick Knowlton: There’s real value in participating in interoperability and they understand that now (due to the pandemic). Now that they’ve run things electronically versus the phone or the fax, they’re not going back. 

HME: Is there research to support that, or is it still too early? 

Knowlton: Even a year and a half ago, when we surveyed referral sources on their view on being able to send electronic referrals to their post-acute care providers, 60% said they’d be willing to switch who they work with if they were able to accept electronic referrals. We’re going to be releasing some updates to that survey soon. To be clear, this is not 100% specific to the HME world, but it gives you insight into the referral provider mindset. They’re financially responsible through value-based care models, and they don’t want to have any blind spots in a patient’s care progression. 

HME: How does this trend become specific to the HME world?  

Knowlton: Regardless of the modality or the mechanism to accomplish interoperability, it’s the expectation of the referral provider that they can communicate electronically with all of their care settings. We see this trend continuing to accelerate across post-acute care. They want to see status updates: Was the oxygen I prescribed delivered or not? This increases success for preventing readmissions. This is also not lost on payers. We’re seeing more interest from payers and third-party administrators for more visibility in post-acute care, as well. 

HME: What’s the role of e-prescribing in interoperability? 

Knowlton: The increasing use of interoperable tools has had an impact on e-prescribing, not only for originating patient orders but also for executing on documents. A lot of e-prescribing modalities are designed with the idea that, if we can get the physician ordering within the EHR or with the standalone platform and get the order pushed to the HME correctly, that’s great. We have seen an uptick in electronic documentation completion pathways, but as an industry, we’d love to have more pathways to push documentation back to the physician for execution when applicable. 


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