SMART Apps and Digital Health Interoperability in Healthcare

It’s a challenging time in healthcare right now. The past few years have certainly taken their toll. There’s an unprecedented workforce shortage, and relief in the form of additional staff is not likely to come anytime soon. Technology like SMART apps allows you to do both — relieving some of the burden from clinicians and creating the time and space for them to focus on delivering a better care experience for patients. 

For digital health tools to be a part of the clinical ecosystem in a meaningful way, they must help and not hinder. Effective digital health tools must: 

  • Integrate seamlessly into existing workflows
  • Encourage interoperability between systems
  • Increase efficiency in the healthcare setting

SMART apps can do just that. 

What are SMART Apps?

Designed to improve clinical efficiency through technology, SMART apps operate in the context of an electronic health record (EHR), allowing third-party apps to be embedded within the EHR safely and securely. Deep integration into EHR workflows via SMART apps and native messaging helps streamline clinician workflow, drive efficiency, and deliver real-time insights.

Get Well has developed a SMART app for Cerner. The SMART app creates a tab within Cerner Powerchart that allows clinicians to directly access Get Well functionality and insights. The existing GetWell Inpatient SMART app for Cerner ensures that patient education can be easily ordered, sent, and tracked from within the EHR — helping to streamline clinician workflow and reduce IT burden of maintaining an education library. 

Such integration allows for Get Well technology to be surfaced right within an EHR. A clinician navigating particular EHRs can surface GetWell Loop or GetWell Inpatient right in the patient’s chart. 

The integrations are designed to embed Get Well capabilities directly into EHR clinical charts and inboxes to provide clinicians and consumers with a single digital framework. This brings convenience and accessibility to the clinician workflow — and empowerment to the patient.

Why is interoperability important in the healthcare industry?

Advanced technological capabilities like SMART apps have become increasingly important in the healthcare industry. In addition to the functionalities they bring to an EHR, SMART apps and other similar innovations bring with them the promise of interoperability, a crucial piece to any modern healthcare puzzle.

According to provider interviews and a Bain-KLAS 2022 Provider Executive Survey, interoperability with other solutions is the biggest pain point as it relates to 3rd-party tech stack, suggesting a real opportunity to help bridge a very important gap.

HIMSS defines interoperability as “the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (systems) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.”

Put simply, a framework of interoperability allows systems, devices, and applications to coordinate and talk to each other, regardless of which entity developed, purchased, or is operating the systems, devices, and applications in question. 

Why is this technological intercommunication so important? It’s not the dialogue that’s key, so much as what it leads to. The main benefits of interoperability in healthcare today as being:

  1. Improved care coordination and patient experiences
  2. Greater patient safety
  3. Stronger privacy and security for patients
  4. Higher productivity and reduced healthcare costs
  5. More accurate public health data

By enabling seamless intercommunication, healthcare technology providers can help elevate the patient experience, removing the barrier of cumbersome technology from human interactions while retaining all the best parts about digital innovations. 

What are the benefits of SMART Apps?

SMART apps enable third-party apps to be embedded within the EHR safely and securely. Because these third-party apps fit seamlessly into existing workflows, clinicians — and, subsequently, patients — stand to benefit a great deal. This means:

  • Fewer logins to track: With single-sign-on access to digital health tools within an EHR, clinicians can log in once and remain within the workflow with which they are familiar without having to juggle multiple sets of credentials.
  • Improved clinician efficiency: Clinicians can automatically launch and access context-specific functionalities directly within their native workflows, without toggling between multiple applications.
  • Updated offerings: Organizations can keep education up to date with a cloud-based library, which minimizes the lift needed to build and maintain a separate education catalog.

The accessibility, efficiency, and currentness of offerings enabled by SMART apps allow staff and providers to interact with valuable third-party digital health tools as though they were an integral part of the native EHR ecosystem. This in turn means a better experience for everyone involved.

Leveraging SMART app as a patient engagement strategy

It’s no secret that COVID-19 put unprecedented pressure on healthcare systems and clinicians to maintain focus on patient experience while managing high volumes of acute patients. When the inpatient atmosphere gets chaotic — as it often does — it is not uncommon for some aspects of education and engagement to fall through the cracks.

To ensure that patient education remained top of mind among conflicting priorities, LifeBridge Health, a five-hospital system based in Baltimore, Md., leveraged the GetWell Inpatient SMART app with the following goals in mind:

  • Monitor and manage a patient’s education playlist
  • Improve communication and care coordination
  • Limit risk of duplicate education
  • Keep education up-to-date with cloud-based library, minimizing need to build and maintain an education catalog within Cerner Orders​
  • Streamline implementation

Clinicians ordered and sent education directly from Cerner EHR — and checked progress against completion. With improved visibility and streamlined workflow, care team members were more responsive to patient needs, and there was no need for the clinical informatics team to create new individual orders and power plans.

LifeBridge implemented the Get Well SMART app in April 2022 and it is estimated that adoption of the app could save the team more than a month’s worth of days, enabling the clinical informatics team to focus on other tasks.

The bottom line

Interoperability is key in healthcare, serving as a way to enforce privacy and security while improving the end-user experience. SMART apps, a more-than-decade-old concept, have brought interoperability to third-party apps, allowing them to be integrated seamlessly into the EHR ecosystem for the benefit of patients and providers alike. 

Learn more about how Get Well’s SMART app integrations work with GetWell Inpatient and how they can help us Get Well, together.