Guidance is Only a Start
My continuing concern is that just asking for interoperability without specifically naming the products that should interoperate, or the standards with which to do it, continues to give vendors a big excuse to continue their ways. Otherwise, vendors may simply say the calls for interoperability are too vague for realistic implementation.
FDA officials will have draft guidance this year on medical device interoperability. But draft guidance is not the same thing as interoperability – far from it. True interoperability is often a mixture of shared demand, technical sophistication, dogged testing and a dollop of diktat. The weaker the combined power of the stakeholders involved, the less likely they will even be at the table when the big decisions get taken about what will work with what, and how.
Another thing about healthcare that sets it apart from some other IT interoperability challenges is that it is never sufficient to simply get data from one place to another. It is also necessary to integrate that data into the workflow of those who receive the data, in such a way that the imported data practically feels like data entered by someone in the next exam room or next cubicle.
That workflow integration is itself another compromise that IT systems and stakeholders have to make, because when you get right down to it, much modern software is differentiated by the experience it affords its users – an experience expressed in the workflow of the software.