Interoperability in healthcare — finally … and how do you get the players to cooperate?

The federal health information technology coordinator recently released a report on how to improve interoperability in electronic health-record systems. The report, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation, A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap” calls for most providers to have the ability to use their systems to send, receive and use a common set of electronic clinical information … at the nationwide level by the end of 2017.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

There are approximately 20 pieces of data including, to name a few, patient demographics, lab test results and identifiers for a patient’s care team members.

According to an article in “While there has been some exchange of information to-date, both providers and insurers say that the level of information exchange is insufficient for their needs. Healthcare organizations wanting to exchange information have been hampered by a lack of consensus on which information exchange standards to use, how to configure computer systems to use them, and which rules and business practices to follow.”

What we don’t see yet is a complete coalescing around the rules of the roadfor a nationwide exchange network, said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, coordinator of The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

This was followed up on February 3, 2015 by a blog post by Dr. Salvo stating that HHS announced a funding opportunity to support the interoperability initiative. This funding opportunity will ” . . . invest $28 million to increase the adoption and use of interoperable health IT tools and services to support the exchange of health information.”

This is clearly where we need to go but I continue to believe that healthcare IT vendors may be a significant obstacle in this process. Nearly every system is proprietary and there are more systems in hospitals today than there have ever been. Incentivizing the healthcare community is a first step in the right direction.

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