Are We Entering An Era of Radical Interoperability? Deloitte Says Yes

If you’ve been watching stop-and-start efforts toward health data interoperability over the last several years, many of which have netted little progress, you might be surprised to hear a top-drawer consulting firm argue that we’re moving ahead into an era of radical interoperability in the healthcare and life science industries.

But that is just the claim being made by Deloitte, whose recent research concludes that these industries’ interoperability efforts are “picking up speed and moving from aspiration to reality.”  This conclusion comes from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, which surveyed 100 technology executives at health systems, health plans, biopharma companies and medtech companies and interviewed another 21 experts.

This shift is happening, in part, because tech capabilities needed to foster interoperability are finding their way into the healthcare industry, Deloitte reported. For example, 53% of execs said they were building their own APIs, 73% have a dedicated, centralized interoperability team in place, 60% host more than half of their applications in the cloud, 57% have established an architecture strategy for interoperability across business functions and almost 80% have had data architects to define their strategies.

According to the recent survey, 48% of execs reported that interoperability will be extremely important to their organization in 3 – 5 years, and 34% said it was extremely important today. More than 50% of survey respondents say they can exchange data with external organizations, including medical devices and consumers, and 76% said that the data is electronically integrated into their systems.

They said the advance of value-based care is perhaps the biggest driver toward broader interoperability, cited by 51% of respondents, followed by regulations (47%) and consumer demand for transparency and data access (41%).

Many respondents also said that interoperable platforms and data would transform most aspects of the healthcare system, including the cost of care (44%), consumer experience (38%) and care coordination and patient outcomes (36%).

Of course, none of this means that interoperability has become easy to pull off. According to Deloitte researchers, some important barriers respondents see to achieving full interoperability include privacy and data security concerns (cited by 51% of respondents), data standards and normalization (43%), multiple software vendor platforms within and outside of their organization (37%), the need for significant financial investment (34%) and legal liability and risk concerns (33%).

Still, if the survey results are to be believed, we may have reached a tipping point in the adoption of interoperability, with its moving from a good idea to a baseline for doing business. While the extent to which providers make available, exchange and integrate data will continue to vary widely from one setting to another, it does seem that we’re likely to see the level of health data sharing expand substantially over the next few years.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.