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HIMSS Review: Technology Priorities and Realities

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, March 12, 2013

The distant goal of interoperability

Private industry is starting to step up, but slowly. Mostashari pointed out that one such effort is the CommonWell Health Alliance, announced at HIMSS last week.

What he didn't say, but I will, is that the CommonWell announcement was mostly marketing spin and very little substance at this point.

In the words of two of its vendor founders, CommonWell "plans to build, certify, and deploy a national infrastructure which will create an ecosystem for universal connectivity providing patient record linking, along with standardized consent and authorization services, so that providers can gain access to needed patient data, regardless of their electronic health record [EHR] supplier or the setting of care."

Cynics pointed out that CommonWell looked a lot like the health IT industry minus one glaring exception: Epic. The market share leader in EHR software in the larger-than-200-bed market wasapparently not invited to join CommonWell. I've seen these kinds of theatrics in IT before, and question how sincerely Epic's competitors were pursuing a détente with the 800-pound IT gorilla.

But around the show floor, some hospital and health system executives confided that Epic will quietly implement some interoperability with other EHR systems, particularly for large customers, although that's apparently not something Epic wants to be highly publicized, and probably is aimed at continuing to assimilate that data into Epic somewhere down the line.

So it may be that Mostashari's exhortations and CommonWell's developmental goal won't be enough. Providers are the ones who can and must demand that health data exchange become ubiquitous. Those providers who fear the legal ramifications have to try to work within our existing litigious system to provide a level of comfort with letting go of data that is, after all, the patient's data.

And with the ongoing sequestration of funds from government programs hampering the ONC itself, vendors who until now have been prospering from government HIT incentives must turn to the hard work of getting that tech cart behind the horse, and keeping it there, by cooperating in ways they never imagined.


Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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1 comments on "HIMSS Review: Technology Priorities and Realities"


Frank Poggio (3/12/2013 at 6:13 PM)
Interoperability...a long way off, you bet! And not only that, think of IntrAoperability. But while ONC focuses on moving date between different health providers there are still big – very big – problems in moving data between systems within a given institution. That's even when you have a vendor like Cerner, or Epic, or McKesson as your primary EHR supplier. They are classically awful at talking to specialty systems. At least that's been my experience for 40 years. Typically they are happy to send you data, not so co-operative in receiving it. It gets done, but not without a hodge-podge of interfaces. By the way in looking over the CommonWell proposal it also focuses on external communication. Nice but in my book no cigar. They totally ignore the issue within the institution. I wonder when ONC will figure this out – you can't very well or efficiently create CCD/CCR data without first getting all the internals to talk to one another. Frank Poggio The Kelzon Group