Practice management software is continually evolving, with a myriad of bells and whistles designed to offer functionalities that may have been unimaginable a few generations ago. Along with the “wow” factor abilities in the software engineered to perform tasks to help make the therapist’s job easier are core functionalities designed to help practices provide better patient-focused care. Among these core functionalities is interoperability.
In this roundtable, manufacturers of practice management software discuss how important it is that software be designed with interoperability in mind, and what they have done to incorporate interoperability in their software. They also discuss how interoperability affects the patient experience and the opportunities or advantages that exist for facilities that effectively leverage their software’s interoperability functions.
Participating in this Q&A are: Jane Moffett, Chief Product Officer, Casamba; Marianne Braunstein, Vice President of Product, Clinicient; Judy Holder, Strategic Account Sales Executive, Focus On Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO); Sharif Zeid, business director, MWTherapy; Kathryn Rigda, Director of Product Management, Therapy, Raintree Systems; and Russell Olsen, Vice President of Innovation and Product Management, WebPT.
Q. Why is interoperability an important consideration for facilities considering a software purchase?
A. Jane Moffett, Casamba: Consumers of healthcare have come to expect some portability of their healthcare data across providers. Of course, different providers could be using different commercial software. Herein lies where choosing the right provider makes a difference. Facilities need to choose a provider who has experience across interoperability, not just for clinical information, but also for patient convenience around things like collecting payments and filling out forms. The partner will need to be able to exchange an array of information with multiple other commercial software products.
A. Marianne Braunstein, Clinicient: Interoperability is one of the essential keys to addressing the opportunities and challenges facing the healthcare system. It enables more effective and efficient care delivery by facilitating a streamlined, secure and comprehensive view of patients and their health. For example, patient data from and to a referring provider can now be easily accessible thanks to interoperability. While minimizing the amount of time lost to duplication of services and tedious tasks, interoperability gives providers and patients the information they need to deliver and receive the highest-quality care with confidence.
A. Judy Holder, FOTO: The topic of interoperability is a vital one on a variety of fronts. First, there is the consideration of ease of use for staff members—the more seamless integrated solutions can be for the end user, the more you can avoid workaround solutions, which can hinder productivity. Secondly, clinician burnout is a hot topic these days, and lack of interoperability is a key driver in a clinician’s happiness level. Lastly, it’s important for patient engagement and satisfaction because they can travel through the healthcare continuum with confidence that their care plan is being coordinated.
A. Sharif Zeid, MWTherapy: Interoperability is a broad term that refers to a system’s ability to communicate with others to exchange data. Facilities should consider interoperability an important feature particularly if the facility employs multiple systems and needs interoperability for those systems to work together, efficiently. Facilities should also consider interoperability from a long-term perspective as well. With healthcare technology evolving so quickly, interoperability can be a way to take advantage of new offerings while sticking with a core piece of software that is proven and effective. With that being said, interoperability should never be considered a replacement for a proper system incorporating key and core functionality. Two systems connected together by a bridge (interoperability) will never be as good as one system under one roof.
A. Kathryn Rigda, Raintree Systems: Interoperability is a critical aspect of the modern healthcare environment because providers need to use multiple systems and platforms in order to care for patients while efficiently operating their business. Those systems are often crucial for care coordination, billing, reporting, labs, etc. Without the ability of those systems to seamlessly interoperate, organizations can be severely impacted in their ability to effectively care for patients, communicate with other providers or simply just provide timely care.
A. Russell Olsen, WebPT: With reimbursements increasingly being tied to value, the healthcare community has experienced a major—and rapid—shift to patient-centered, quality-driven care models. Interoperability is a mission-critical part of today’s healthcare IT equation, as it improves care efficiency across the continuum of care, reduces cost, and puts the patient back at the center. Those considering a software purchase must first know what to look for in an EHR or EMR—and then partner with systems that recognize the value and importance of interoperability and secure data collection.
Q. What steps has your company taken to meet the need for interoperability in its software product?
A. Jane Moffett, Casamba: Our company works with more than 250 different commercial software products. This includes everything from patient registration, outbound and inbound patient data, billing data and patient engagement data, not to mention related information like payroll and statistical company financial data. Because our products are in upwards of 15,000 locations nationwide, we have become very adept at onboarding new locations and setting up integration. We have also implemented industry-standard safeguards around data exchange because the data has sensitive healthcare information. This ensures proper data is exchanged securely and that there is a minimum standard every company should meet.
A. Marianne Braunstein, Clinicient: Clinicient is committed to the interoperability standards accepted and well-adopted by the healthcare system, specifically those supported by Health Level Seven (HL7) including Version 2 and FHIR. Through our technology and expertise, we enable our clients to interface with partners within the healthcare ecosystem including other rehabilitation practices, hospitals, healthcare agencies, and patients. We have implemented numerous one-way and bi-directional interfaces across multiple workflows and message types—helping our clients to minimize administrative burdens and improve the patient experience. Looking forward, Clinicient is actively staying abreast of evolving interoperability standards and intends to continue to lead the way with best-in-class interface solutions.
A. Judy Holder, FOTO: FOTO’s patient-reported outcomes (PRO) solution has always been an EMR agnostic platform. We offer standardized integration tools for patient ADT data to come from the EMR for Outcomes scores and reports, that blends back into the patient records. With tools that include integration and single sign-on (SSO), we offer practices and patients a smooth experience. Interoperability is not just about interfaces between systems. It includes the broader ecosystem of social media and patient portal access. We created a marketing suite that embeds social media “widgets” to publish a therapist’s benchmarked clinical success stories to prospective patients and referral sources.
A. Sharif Zeid, MWTherapy: MWTherapy has been on the market for over 10 years. During that time, the company has integrated with a wide variety of different types of systems and products. It’s important to know that interoperability doesn’t mean one thing; it can mean a range of things. There are tight integrations between systems and more casual connections.
MWTherapy strives to be all-on-one but when integrations are done, they are always all-in to make them as seamless as possible. We have a long-standing track record of working with other systems and adhering to nationally created standards.
A. Kathryn Rigda, Raintree Systems: Raintree Systems takes interoperability very seriously because our platform is often the core business tool that our clients use for all aspects of their business and patient care. We work closely with clients and outside vendors to ensure that Raintree supports all the common healthcare interface standards as well other standards that may be needed (web, API, HIPAA, SMS/MMS, ANSI, email, etc). In addition, Raintree uses proprietary technology to enable Raintree to see, view and use data generated by other systems to enhance and extend the capabilities of our platform.
A. Russell Olsen, WebPT: In addition to ensuring users can securely enter and track patient information, WebPT’s outpatient therapy platform provides tools that allow practices to leverage that data in order to improve care coordination and clinical performance. With respect to data transfer, WebPT has long focused on interoperability and partners with a wide array of vendors to develop system integrations that allow providers access to everything they need to run their practices—documentation, dictation, billing, and more. More importantly, WebPT realizes that each practice is different. That’s why we don’t force our users into a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we work with organizations to integrate mission-critical systems into the WebPT framework, and we have a dedicated team to continuously monitor and support established integration channels.
Q. How does interoperability affect the patient experience?
A. Jane Moffett, Casamba: Healthcare providers want treatment access to be convenient and efficient. Patients want to be able to see their healthcare provider without administrative burdens. Data exchange and interoperability accomplishes those things. Interoperability arms the healthcare provider with the tools they need to provide efficient and effective care.
A. Marianne Braunstein, Clinicient: Interoperability enables a comprehensive view of the patient. Patient information that was once separated across healthcare organizations, or even across HIT systems within a single rehabilitation practice, can now be securely shared and made available to authorized therapists and other providers. In environments that support interoperability, patients are not asked repetitive questions or instructed to perform previously failed therapies. Instead, their account and health information is accurate, and they can receive care that rapidly advances their progress because it is based on a more holistic view of their health and clinical history.
A. Judy Holder, FOTO: Interoperability from the patient’s perspective is underestimated. A patient goes to the hospital, fills out a mountain of paperwork and is treated without the clinician seeing their history and medications list from their PCP. Then they are referred elsewhere and unless the systems are interoperable, they are handed the “dreaded clipboard” to regurgitate their information again. This common scenario breeds aggravation, annoyance, and lack of confidence in healthcare providers. The solution is interoperability across the continuum of care to share vital clinical information to improve the quality of care and ease the administrative burdens of the patient and the staff.
A. Sharif Zeid, MWTherapy: Interoperability can definitely improve the patient experience but if an interoperability setup is working properly, the patient should never know it or see it. That’s the hallmark—a seamless experience. Interoperability, itself, however, is not the feature that makes the difference; it is the functionality that the interoperability enables that matters.
In today’s healthcare world, patients are expecting a top-notch experience from intake to payment to align with their experiences with other products, and interoperability can be a part of delivering that smooth, fluid experience.
The other is a future benefit that has yet to be realized. Most in the healthcare space recognize that one of the dreams is the ability to connect medical records across providers, allowing for better patient safety and better patient outcomes on top of a better patient experience. This is important for healthcare in general, and a national standard that works for all stakeholders will be key to making it a reality.
A. Kathryn Rigda, Raintree Systems: The modern healthcare experience for patients can be overwhelming and confusing. By developing and supporting system interoperability, Raintree can help providers streamline and coordinate patient care while helping to simplify the complexity of the overall process. This allows providers to effectively treat their patients while providing an overall better patient experience.
A. Russell Olsen, WebPT: When a practice’s information exists in disparate systems, providers are bound to waste time toggling between those platforms, double-entering data, and tracking down the information they need. But when all of the systems connect, providers can give all of that time back to patients. When systems talk to each other, it not only reduces data errors, but also fosters truly patient-centered care. And that means better results—in terms of both cost savings and patient outcomes. Interoperability helps save time so rehab therapists can do what they do best—heal patients.
Q. What opportunities or advantages exist for facilities that effectively leverage their software’s interoperability functions?
A. Jane Moffett, Casamba: When facilities effectively use interoperability, they are able to provide care with less administrative burden for both the provider and the patient. The provider has accurate information, and the patient care experience is better for it.
A. Marianne Braunstein, Clinicient: Interoperability offers a multitude of advantages. Therapists and other providers no longer need to log in to multiple systems to piecemeal information together about their patient or provide care in a void, hampered by critical missing patient data. Interoperability saves time and frustration, and it presents a complete picture of the patient. This, in turn, creates the most significant opportunity—to provide better patient care by providing therapists and other providers better information about their patient. This results in both increased therapist satisfaction and patient satisfaction.
A. Judy Holder, FOTO: First and foremost—it’s all about the patient. Investing in interoperable technology offers optimum access to ALL the patient’s clinical records for coordinated care in the safest, most cost-effective manner. The reality is that in today’s digital world, patients select their clinicians using online reviews like they choose restaurants or hotels. Patients will gravitate to healthcare providers who offer ease of access and inspire confidence through knowledge of their entire medical history.
Bottom line—our world is shifting from a fee-for-service to a value-based care system, and interoperable, best-of-breed solutions are the keys to grow profitably and thrive.
A. Sharif Zeid, MWTherapy: The advantages of using the right systems in the right places, interoperating where needed, can deliver a lot of benefits. Practices can expect smoother billing, better collections, enhanced communication internally and with patients, referrers and more. Patients can expect better connectedness and information where and when it is needed. Altogether, these can make for a better healthcare world for all.
The future for interoperability is bright, and who knows what the future may hold.
Kathryn Rigda, Raintree Systems: A clinic or facility that can effectively leverage interoperability functions can dramatically improve the overall efficiency of their operation. Their staff can do more because their software is always working in the background to perform functions and processes that were traditionally labor and time intensive. They can focus on the things that improve patient care and improve revenue.
A. Russell Olsen, WebPT: In this day and age, running a successful rehab therapy practice requires more than providing exceptional patient care. Today’s therapists also have to create complete, compliant, defensible documentation; ensure accurate billing for the services they provide; and find their place in an increasingly patient-centered and value-driven healthcare paradigm. Through effective, secure patient data exchange, interoperable health systems have the power to break down information silos and better equip care providers to streamline billing, improve patient care, and create more cohesive rehabilitation plans to close the care loop and reduce the cost of care delivery. RM