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Beyond the Buzzwords: Putting Interoperability to Work in Healthcare – A TEFCA-Powered Future


Beyond the Buzzwords: Putting Interoperability to Work in Healthcare – A TEFCA-Powered Future

April 17, 2024 | 10-minute read


The healthcare industry throws around terms like "interoperability" a lot, but for senior leaders in risk adjustment, quality improvement and data & analytics at Health Plans, understanding its practical implications is crucial. This blog dives into specific use cases across the healthcare system, exploring how semantic interoperability empowers both health plans and providers, while also highlighting the potential of Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) to streamline data exchange within the framework of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).

From Jargon to Actionable Insights: Use Cases in Focus

Health Plan Perspective

  • Risk Adjustment with Confidence: TEFCA promotes the development of a nationwide network for secure health information exchange. This means more complete and accurate clinical data from various providers, leading to more precise risk profiles and reduced audit burden associated with the RADV rule. Semantic interoperability ensures risk adjustment teams are getting the right member data with the right meaning, regardless of where and in what format that data is coming from.
  • Proactive Care Management: By understanding the complete picture of a member's health (including data from across multiple providers – PCP, specialists, Emergency Department, etc.), health plans can personalize care interventions and ultimately improve population health outcomes. Imagine identifying members at high risk for chronic conditions based on a holistic view of their medical history, enabling earlier intervention and potentially reducing overall healthcare costs by proactively managing specific conditions.
  • Fraud Detection on Steroids: Analysing standardized data across a TEFCA-enabled network allows for efficient identification of fraudulent coding practices. With a wider view of healthcare data, outliers and inconsistencies become more apparent, protecting healthcare resources from abuse. Additionally, Health Plans can effectively tackle the issue of under and over billing by Providers and in turn reduce the rate of prior authorization denials.

Provider Perspective:

  • Seamless Care Coordination: Secure and seamless data exchange provider-to-provider, provider-to-payer and payer-to-provider facilitates collaborative care, reducing gaps in care, mistakes in treatment, redundant care, etc. Imagine a world where a specialist can instantly access a member's complete medical history, regardless of which provider they saw previously. TEFCA aims to make this a reality.
  • Reduced Administrative Burden: Automated data exchange eliminates the need for manual chart chasing and duplicate entries, freeing up valuable time that can be devoted to caring for members. TEFCA establishes common standards and protocols for data exchange, allowing healthcare systems to talk to each other more efficiently.
  • Empowering Members: Members can access their complete medical records from various providers in a single platform, fostering active participation in their healthcare journey. TEFCA promotes member choice and control over their health information.

QHINs: The Building Blocks of the TEFCA Network

Imagine a network of highways connecting different cities. QHINs function similarly, acting as bridges between different healthcare information exchanges (HIEs) within the TEFCA framework. These secure networks facilitate the seamless exchange of data nationwide, regardless of a provider's location or HIE affiliation. By establishing common standards and protocols, QHINs significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of data exchange, ultimately benefiting health plans, providers and members.

The Future of Healthcare: A TEFCA-Enabled Ecosystem

TEFCA, with its emphasis on semantic interoperability and QHIN-based data exchange, paints a picture of a future-state healthcare system characterized by:

  • Improved Care Quality: With complete and accurate data readily available, providers can deliver more informed, targeted and less redundant care, leading to improved member outcomes and experience.
  • Reduced Costs: Streamlined data exchange eliminates massive administrative burdens and redundancies associated with ingesting and handling member data today, allowing healthcare organizations to allocate their resources more effectively.
  • Enhanced Member Engagement: Members empowered with access to their complete medical information can actively participate in care decisions, fostering a more collaborative and engaging healthcare experience.
  • Population Health Management: Analyzing data across a wider network allows health plans to identify trends and patterns within their member population, enabling proactive interventions and improved outcomes at the population level.

The Road to a Connected Future

Achieving true interoperability is a journey, not a destination. By embracing standardized terminologies, leveraging AI and NLP, and collaborating with QHINs within the TEFCA framework, the healthcare ecosystem can unlock the true potential of seamless data exchange. This paves the way for a future of improved care coordination, reduced costs, and ultimately, a healthier population. As a leader in risk adjustment, quality improvement, or data & analytics at a Health Plan, understanding TEFCA, its role in interoperability and what that means in terms of considerations for your own organization, is key to navigating the future of healthcare data exchange and maximizing the value you deliver to your organization and members.

Key Actions for Health Plans

As a senior leader in risk adjustment, quality improvement, or data & analytics at a Health Plan, taking proactive steps towards TEFCA-enabled interoperability is crucial. Here are some key actions to consider:

  • Develop a TEFCA Implementation Strategy: Evaluate your current data infrastructure and identify gaps in achieving semantic interoperability. Develop a roadmap for adopting TEFCA-compliant technologies and workflows.
  • Invest in Standardized Technologies Ensure your organization utilizes standardized technologies capable of streamlining process to include the use of correct terminologies like SNOMED CT for accurate data capture and exchange. This facilitates seamless communication and data analysis across different healthcare entities.
  • Partner with QHINs: Collaborate with QHINs operating in your region to leverage their secure data exchange network and expertise in TEFCA implementation.
  • Develop Data Governance Framework: Establish clear policies and procedures for data access, security, and privacy within the TEFCA framework. This ensures responsible data handling and compliance with regulations across the organization.
  • Upskill Your Workforce: Train your teams on TEFCA requirements, data quality principles, and the use of data from interoperability. This empowers them to leverage this new data effectively for risk adjustment, quality improvement, and population health initiatives.
  • Advocate for TEFCA Adoption: Collaborate with industry stakeholders and policymakers to advocate for the widespread adoption of TEFCA. This promotes a nationwide interoperable healthcare ecosystem, ultimately benefiting health plans, providers, and members alike.

By taking these steps, Health Plans can position themselves to thrive in the TEFCA-enabled future of healthcare, achieving improved operational efficiency, enhanced quality of care, and ultimately, a healthier member population.

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