Step into any hospital or healthcare facility today, and you might notice that each department typically operates within its own distinct silo. Just as farming silos individually store copious amounts of grain, healthcare silos store massive amounts of data, information and ideas that are segregated by different departments.
Unfortunately, the silo method of organizing information creates a disconnect between healthcare facilities, providers and payers – contributing to the lack of communication between groups in the healthcare system. However, by breaking down these data silos, internal communication can not only improve, but it also can become more readily accessible. With better ease of access and sharing of information, all parties involved in the healthcare system can improve patient data flow, achieve a higher level of collaboration and become more efficient. Integrated access to information for providers, payers, and hospitals enables all parties across the board to more effectively communicate and collaborate as one organization rather than divided entities. This ensures that all parties have a common goal in mind: providing patients with the highest level of care possible.
Driving the collaboration between payers and providers is a recent trend called “convergence.” Byron C. Scott, associate chief medical officer at Truven Health Analytics, defines convergence as the collaboration of payers and providers to provide population health management.
Typically, with silo-based systems, payers and providers generally operate in their separate realms, rarely crossing paths. However, as the fee-for-value shift continues with reforms such as the Affordable Care Act (2010), payers and providers must form relationships to manage risks in today’s new healthcare landscape. Since providers need to manage financial risks, payers must also shift their focus to the delivery of patient care. The breakdown of information silos improves communication between both the payer and provider entities that were previously closed off from each other.
The breaking down of silos in the healthcare industry has also improved the way that patient information can be shared between providers. The silo style of storing patient data in the healthcare system has always challenged providers to share patient information seamlessly. This challenge has been particularly evident when patients are transitioning from one setting of care to another outside of the original system.
For example, consider the following scenario: Ruth suffered a stroke three weeks ago and was quickly admitted to her local hospital. Since then, she has transitioned from the hospital to a rehabilitation care facility to continue her recovery. Ruth’s transition to the rehabilitation care facility has required her health information to be shared between a multitude of payers and providers.
To complete her transfer seamlessly and ensure that all parties are following her care/treatment plan, communication between payers, providers and healthcare facilities is crucial. Unfortunately, silos of information within the healthcare system create a challenging transition for patients like Ruth and all parties involved in providing her care.
Programs such as the Health Information Exchange (HIE) aim to ease this transition of patient referral from one setting of care to another by sending a summary of care record that is electronically transmitted using a certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT). Unfortunately, the margin of error in this exchange, whether human or technological, can lead to miscommunication and improper care for the patient.
The integration of systems where information can seamlessly be shared between providers and payers increases the level of communication that exists between all relationships within the healthcare system. More communication and collaboration in the healthcare system leads to increased patient satisfaction. With an integrated system, providers can quickly access patient information, enabling them to provide a correct diagnosis and consult other providers at different healthcare facilities.
Improving internal communication within the healthcare system is an important step to driving improved patient care. Breaking down silos within the healthcare industry is an effective start for any organization to improve internal communications.