Sam Merkouriou founded Rhodes Group in 2000, a company serving the clinical laboratory industry for twenty years. He takes an active role in all client projects and has been involved in the clinical laboratory industry for four decades. Sam’s expertise in laboratory, clinical, operations, claims procedures, and commitment to client service drives Rhodes Group’s software development efforts.
RHODES GROUP’S FOUNDER AND VICE PRESIDENT OF INNOVATION, SPEAKS ABOUT ADVANCED INTEROPERABILITY
We asked Sam about this innovative technology that can help independent labs better compete in today’s healthcare environment. Here’s what he had to say:
NON-INTEROPERABLE SYSTEMS TODAY
Typical laboratory data flow requires an expensive point-to-point hub and spoke architecture integration system. This legacy model requires that each interface is custom coded with nomenclature for tests and other parameters, so the addition of a new test may require each interface to every client is updated to support these latest changes. Often, separate portal systems are also used to create another data base with complexity the lab must support as it expands to potentially hundreds or thousands of client connections. For an already stretched thin lab IT department, the costs expand continuously with added charges for each connection, implementation, and vendor support. Finally, the current model is disconnected from lab operations flow and does not support efficient propagation of important concepts between foreign and lab systems. Even the ability of creating a trackable, instrument ready label at each specimen origination point is a challenge.
WHAT IS ADVANCED INTEROPERABILITY AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
We live in a world where the ability to get paid for testing services is becoming more challenging each year. PAMA, other federal efforts, and market pressures have reduced reimbursements for laboratories. It’s becoming a critical operational requirement for labs to significantly reduce costs and increase automation.
True interoperability must go beyond the legacy integration interface. True interoperability gives the lab an opportunity to drive its industrial and scientific processes with the automation flow to reduce costs and participate in patient care by providing actionable information to its consumers. An advanced interoperability architecture uses innovative Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), Meaningful Use, and other integration efforts to create a seamless business-to-business connection between the lab, its clinical clients, and with the patient directly. We use an integration process to drive data and supplement with direct connectivity to the lab operations.
The Rhodes Group expects that when a client places an order and collects a specimen, our interoperability engine will produce instrument ready labels on their desktop with or without our software. When the user requires a managed collection of a specimen, they can press a button on their own software and seamlessly access the Rhodes Group’s positive patient ID collection features. When the specimen arrives at the lab, it can be directly placed on a robotic instrument line. The robot can automatically be told by the interoperability engine what containers to aliquot. The result will not only be sent to the original point of order, but to any other provider that requires the information.
Advanced interoperability means we can scan real-time data streams for new admissions, then assemble the patient data generated by any provider, and send it to that system to support that clinician’s efforts to treat the patient. When analytical outcomes for risk stratification or patient care gaps are found, they can be accessed by the requiring clinical entity, no matter where the data originated in the community.
We consider the use of FHIR servers and other similar tools part of a highly-scalable integrated toolset that can deliver enhanced business and clinical outcomes instead of basic data flow. For the Rhodes Group, it’s about creating a healthcare marketplace, exchanging information, and providing actionable information for clinical care.