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What's on the Horizon For Health Data Interoperability

Julia Friedland

The social determinants of health are gaining more acknowledgment as factors that directly affect someone’s health, and more organizations are creating new models of care to account for SDOH. This can only be supported fully if healthcare data systems can make room for this important information.’s Vice President of Operations, Michael Sattler, talked with Mark Vafiades, Senior Advisor, ONC about the importance of health data interoperability, and what he sees for the future. Here are some key points from the conversation:

The patient has a role in integrating successfully with CBO’s

For successful integrations with community-based organizations, patients should understand why the information is essential, give consent to people to access it, and be willing to provide that information, possibly even pulling their assessment.

SDOH knowledge saves time and money

Awareness of the social factors in patients’ lives allows organizations to be more efficient, save money, and treat their patients better. One example of how an organization can benefit from this knowledge is if providers knew that one of their patients with transportation issues has an upcoming appointment, they could take steps to ensure that the patient will be able to show up. Some organizations have ride-sharing programs in place for this purpose, so they can reduce the amount of no show costs and increase providers’ efficiency.

Context is everything

In an emergency, health information that's readily available to first responders increases the chance of a person's survival. Knowing about a patient's life beyond just their medical information creates a story about them, which can add to their care plan. Does the person have food security issues? Transportation issues? Walkable, safe streets? These factors affect the persons' health and their care plan. 

Integrating SDOH data and medical record improves outcomes and efficiency 

If SDOH data and community-based health information are all integrated with a patient’s medical record, providers can access that information, make updates to it, and utilize it efficiently. It saves the provider time by allowing for a quick catch up, rather than having to ask and re-ask the same questions in every appointment. It will enable the provider to spend more time on care and less time on data entry. 

The continuum of care goes two ways
There’s the importance of the ability to provide context of someone’s history to EMTs, and there’s the providers of a care team, and it’s important to know what’s going on in the medical office. While there are HIPAA concerns with this two way street, they must be worked out, as this communication between healthcare providers and community providers is crucial.

What does the future look like for SDOH data?

  • API’s - Mark believes that the future of healthcare involves the use of application programming interfaces. These will allow patients, healthcare providers, and community-based providers to access all of their health information on their smartphones.
  • USCDI - Core data interoperability allows for standardized data that can be expanded. 

Listen to the entire interview with Mark Vafiades by clicking on the button below. 

Watch the interview

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