The Argonaut Project that launched last week offers a real chance at much-needed workable EHR standards. But by itself, Argonaut won't lead to interoperability nirvana.
In Greek mythology, the Argonauts, accompanied by heroic Jason, had to snatch a golden fleece from a dragon who never slept. In 2015, the Argonaut Project aims to snatch a true interoperability demonstration between EHR competitors and help healthcare providers who've spent many a sleepless night trying to figure out how they can survive in this new age of sharing EHR data.
Announced at last week's HL7 Policy Conference in Washington, the Argonaut Project has the backing of heavyweight EHR competitors Epic, Cerner, McKesson, Meditech, and athenahealth, as well as heavy-hitting providers Partners HealthCare in Boston, Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
So how bowled over should we be by this announcement?
First, consider that every EHR provider listed above is a member of HL7, a nonprofit standards development organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. (With one exception: athenahealth let its membership in HL7 lapse in 2013, but a spokesperson tells me its renewal should be finalized by the end of this month.)
In short, these fierce competitors already meet around the HL7 table. So this wasn't exactly a Camp David moment for healthcare IT. More like a lively meeting of the United Nations.
But Argonaut is important. It represents a "code sprint" aimed at delivering something in April or May that could prove or disprove the utility of the new HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) technology that aims to make sharing healthcare data more like sharing data on the Internet.
Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.