Interoperability is New Focus for Health IT

By Leon Barzin

MMS Director of Health Information Technologykeyboard 1

Barriers to interoperability continue to be main challenges to moving the nation’s health care system beyond simply making electronic silos of information from paper ones, according to experts at the recent annual meeting of the eHealth Initiative.

The recent Meaningful Use Program started with three goals for the identified stages: Stage 1: data capture and sharing; Stage 2: advance clinical processes; and Stage 3: improve outcomes.

Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, as painful as it has been to some independent practices, is generally considered quite successful in fostering electronic data capture.  It has moved the use of electronic medical records from single digits in the pre-Meaningful Use period to an estimated 70 percent nationwide today.

Unfortunately, it appears that both Stages 1 and 2 have largely failed in the primary objective of “sharing,” moving health data security to the right place at the right time – especially among dissimilar systems.

In January 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the document, A 10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure.

If improved interoperability can be achieved via this federal roadmap, such a system would support more efficient and effective healthcare and lead to a continuously improving health system that empowers individuals, customizes treatment, and accelerates cure of disease.

On the heels of the release of the government’s document, the eHealth Initiative held its yearly meeting last week, bringing together physicians, administrators and other national experts to focus on how this plan could be implemented in real clinical environments.

Several consensus items among attendees were clear:

  • EHR vendors and providers can no longer ignore interoperability.
  • New secure interoperability software is on the near horizon and mobile devices will be the focus.
  • Patients will soon be included as active partners in their healthcare and possess some or all of their records on their smartphones.
  • Wearable sensor devices like Fitbit will become more clinically connected and able to provide useful clinical information.
  • Early pilots in telemedicine are moving toward standard operation, especially chronic disease management, benefiting from advances in sharing technology.

Although there seems to be little impetus for additional “checkbox” Meaningful Use requirements, it appears efforts will shift throughout the industry, within provider communities, and at CMS to push forward with interoperability improvements.

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