More than a decade ago, hospitals and physicians began transitioning from paper-based to electronic health records (EHR) to facilitate the exchange of patient information. Since then, more than 95% of hospitals and nearly 90% of office-based physicians have adopted an EHR system, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

However, according to HIMSS analytics, the average hospital has affiliated providers using  16 EHR systems — most often provided by a different vendor.  With so many disparate systems, interoperability — getting computerized systems and software applications to connect, exchange, and interpret EHR data — remains a pressing issue for the industry.

I’ve experienced the need for interoperability from several perspectives. As a physician, I experienced how complicated it was to get a full view of a patient’s healthcare with information spread within and between multiple EHR platforms. Then, as a caregiver to my mother, as she battled ovarian cancer, I experienced the difficulty of understanding and coordinating her care across providers, specialists, insurers, and pharmacists.

These experiences motivated me to look at solutions from the regulatory level, which took me to Washington, D.C. as a legislative health policy fellow. And most recently, I served as the Chief Medical Officer responsible for EHR modernization at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where I experienced first hand the challenges of implementing interoperability in a complex health system.

While achieving interoperability isn’t easy, I believe the benefits of connected care will help us become the healthiest population in history. When the industry is connected, our world’s healthcare professionals can quickly and more efficiently provide services and information that will improve patient safety, security, and well-being.

I joined Salesforce because I’ve never been more optimistic that the technology and healthcare industries are ready to make interoperability a reality. Just look at how many technology leaders have come together, including Salesforce, to commit to interoperability.

As we trailblaze the way and reimagine connected care, I would like to share three insights that are integral to the healthcare industry’s success.


#1: Build an ecosystem with the person at the center

Technology has transformed our lives and industries in unprecedented ways. Increasingly, each of us expects care experiences to be as quick and seamless as ordering a package online and receiving it the next day. As an industry, healthcare has a long way to go, especially compared with consumer-centric industries like online retail and banking.

Whether your customers are members or patients, physicians, or consumers, the first step is building an ecosystem with the member/patient at the center.  When we refer to an ecosystem, it comprises of healthcare professionals, including physicians, payers, nurses, pharmacists, and caregivers– all of whom collaborate and work toward improving the patient experience.

This is how you build personalized and scalable experiences and ultimately, this is the foundation for delivering on interoperability. We should all aim towards the same north star: a connected customer experience.


#2: Integration is possible

For many of you who have worked on operationalizing connected care, myself included, you probably have a few scars to show for it. When trying to integrate at multiple levels (within a system, between systems, between medical devices, across different programs, and the list goes on…), our mission is to make sure our technologies connect, and not compete, with each other.

Connecting technologies requires seamless integration and that is why I’m excited about Salesforce’s recent acquisition, Mulesoft. It’s a critical component for our interoperability efforts, enabling API-led connectivity and an enhanced 360-degree view of our patients/members. On top of that, over the last two years, Salesforce has made a specific point to build interoperability within the industry-specific product, Salesforce Health Cloud. The system has been API-based since conception and MuleSoft boosts its power. These capabilities, coupled with our FHIR-aligned data model, aim to streamline the use of Salesforce in healthcare.


#3: Providers, payers, life sciences, tech partners and more: We’re in it together

We have to take a platform approach: to see patients holistically, beyond just the clinical visit. This means unifying care around the patient and connecting the ecosystem, including system integrators and application partners who leverage their industry expertise (e.g., population health, provider scheduling, care management, patient engagement, clinical trial management) to create apps that inform personalized patient and member experiences while enabling collaboration across the entire healthcare journey. Together, we can help create the connective tissue to drive stronger relationships across the ecosystem.

Having worked at and with complex health systems, I know finding the right solution is tough. But we’re on the right path to bring the industry together, eliminate the friction that exists in the healthcare systems today and deliver on the promise of interoperability.

To learn more, be sure to check out our webinar, "Connect Any Health App, Device, and Data with Salesforce," where we share how to extend the value of your systems to create a unified view of each patient and member.