Dr holding diagram of patient info telehealth interoperability

ATA Calls for Telehealth Interoperability

This week, the American Telemedicine Association held its annual conference in New Orleans with a call for interoperability, suggesting that connected care won’t truly happen until providers, patients, and payers are fully connected. A white paper released by the ATA emphasized the importance of working together and sharing data, as opposed to the current situation of fragmented processes and siloed information. With increased telehealth interoperability, said the ATA, telemedicine services will continue to advance in efficiency, quality, productivity, and financial sustainability.

In order for these advances to happen, however, the ATA believes that the following categories of telehealth operability are necessary:

  • Unique patient/member ID
  • Patient/member health data – shared throughout electronic health records (EHR), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), telemedicine platforms, enterprise data warehouses (EDW), and other systems for timely reimbursement, population health management, and performance reporting
  • Patient/member communication
  • Remote examination
  • Patient data capture – accessible through both diagnostic medical devices and remote patient monitoring setups
  • Telemedicine workflows
  • Interstate licensure

Thus far, buyers of telemedicine technology—including payers, employers, health systems, and post-acute care—have been content to invest in segregated platforms that work within their individual systems, giving vendors little incentive to work towards interoperability. The ATA is now urging these buyers to seek implementation and adoption of standards-based interoperability support across various solutions. This shift becomes more important when one considers the increasing emphasis placed on value-based care, in which patients are demanding more control over their care options and are seeking care from different providers who currently lack access to each others’ patient information. By increasing interoperability, explained the white paper, the industry can develop workflows and processes that integrate telemedicine procedures into routine care for the benefit of both patients and providers.

To work towards increased interoperability, the ATA suggested a four-point plan for success:

  1. People, governances, and payment models – Interoperability, data-sharing, and value-based care measure patient outcomes and thus are in direct conflict with the traditional fee-for-service (FFS) payment model, which rewards services rendered regardless of the results. Governance and leadership must address the transition towards value-based care to fully embrace interoperability.
  2. Processes, workflows, and policies – Telemedicine processes should integrate seamlessly into existing workflows, rather than replace them.
  3. Interface standards and modular platform solutions – The ATA suggested that health systems implement enterprise telemedicine programs with a flexible, modular design that can be configured as needed to support specific departments’ needs. This would allow the organization to adapt more easily to changes in the industry and to reduce risk in pursuing long-term strategies.
  4. Performance reporting and resource management – Aggregated data and transparency will help inform business and clinical decisions and give providers, patients, and payers access to standardized outcome results of clinical quality metrics.

The challenge, according to the ATA, is creating a platform that meets everybody’s goals. However, it’s doable if everyone collaborates and focuses on value-based care.

To read more about the ATA’s white paper, visit mHealthIntelligence here.

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