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Investing in Interoperability


At HIMSS, two executives talk about the proposed interoperability rules and the government's role in its implementation.


It has been just over a month since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed new rules to improve the interoperability of electronic health information.

Days after the proposed rules were announced, Inside Digital Health™ had the opportunity to speak with two healthcare executives during HIMSS about what the rules mean for the health IT world.

Creating Competition to Drive Innovation

Dave Levin, M.D., co-founder and chief medical officer at Sansoro Health, said that the theme of the proposed rules is clear: It's all about competition. The government is aiming to create a level playing field that will promote competition in the marketplace in hopes of driving innovation at a faster pace in healthcare.

The focus on interoperability comes as a result of the government's belief that interoperability is the foundation upon which the next generation of health IT will be built. And what will that next generation look like? More like an app store kind of economy, according to Levin. Interoperability represents the ability of these applications to show up, plug-in, exchange data seamlessly, opening up powerful new opportunities for collaboration.

While other industries have leveraged this approach with great success, it remains just out of reach in healthcare. The lack of interoperability creates friction when we attempt to move data, making it more difficult to deploy and integrate insights. As a result, it's hard for companies to make an entrance into the marketplace and to compete, evolve and improve.

Despite that friction, “I think we are on the road to what I call personalized health (information technology),” Levin said, adding that we will need information systems that reflect the differences in style and workflow for a wide range of physicians, specialists and health system employees.

“So, interoperability is really the foundational piece that allows the creation of these new kinds of applications, but also allows them to evolve much more quickly to fill these different niches in a more effective way,” Levin said.

The Government's Role in Interoperability

John D’Amore, president and chief strategy officer at Diameter Health, said that the government believes interoperability will be a cornerstone of Meaningful Use in getting started with electronic health records, and that over time, investments in this area will continue to roll in.

For many people, it's challenging to point to scenarios where interoperability has made a tangible difference. Others worry that even if we do realize its benefits, interoperability will be distributed unevenly across healthcare platforms.

For example, some health systems in distinct pockets of the nation have relatively seamless interoperability and can put data to good use to improve patient care and the analytics associated with it, D’Amore said. The federal government plays a key role in that.

Government officials can support standards like HL7 V2, CCDA and FHIR, and anchor what payers and the larger provider community will look at to see the direction for where interoperability takes us into the future.

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