Seeking Interoperability in a Sea of Data

Scott Mace, December 3, 2015

While it has been an elusive goal for years, the costs associated with not having standardization are mounting and "interoperability is becoming the main act" for healthcare leaders, says an HIT expert.

This article first appeared in the November 2015 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Interoperability of electronic health records and other healthcare IT systems remains elusive. Healthcare organizations clamor for it and the federal government voices support, but until very recently providers and vendors have lacked incentive to do more than create isolated networks. Yet many providers around the country are creating their own workarounds to achieve at least partial interoperability. These efforts take a lot of work, but technology leaders undertake them in pursuit of cost savings and patient safety.

The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering defines interoperability as "the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged," and that is the commonly agreed-on aspiration of all stakeholders in healthcare.

"There is a cost for the lack of standardization and the lack of interoperability," says Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, MSHA, FACP, FACMI, who is chief medical officer and president of clinical services for Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, which includes 168 hospitals and 113 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and England, and reported revenues of about $37 billion in 2014. "Organizations, ours included, are compelled to create workarounds to make different devices or different information systems share the information. We need standards that get us to plug-and-play."

Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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