Amol Vyas says the federal government has to push forward with efforts that promote interoperability, addressing current barriers like trust, security, and scale
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recently appointed Amol Vyas as its first vice president of interoperability, giving the non-profit organization a point man as the government and healthcare industry make progress toward nationwide health information exchange.
Vyas has more than two decades of experience in information technology, most recently with Cambia Health Solutions. He also was part of the MedicaLogic team that helped to develop one of the first electronic medical record systems, and he led development of the Common Payer Consumer Data Set and the CARIN FHIR Implementation Guide for Blue Button.
He recently sat down for a virtual Q&A with HealthLeaders on his new role.
Q. Why is the NCQA creating a VP of Interoperability now?
Vyas: We are at an important juncture in the healthcare industry’s interoperability journey. The federal government (particularly the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Health and Human Services Department's Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) have doubled down on standards-based health data interoperability. Both payers and providers are now mandated to share health data using interoperable APIs. In creating the VP of Interoperability role, I believe NCQA has committed to focusing on harnessing these exciting developments in the transition to full digital quality measurement.
Q. What are your priorities and goals in the year(s) ahead?
Vyas: One of my top priorities is to create an enterprise strategy that is aligned with not only the key business focus areas but also the healthcare industry's current state of maturity in interoperability. The goal is to position NCQA's products and services to leverage regulated interoperability APIs that are currently in use.
Q. What are the challenges or barriers affecting nationwide healthcare interoperability?
Vyas: The payer and provider interoperability APIs have arrived and are here to stay. However, to reach the next level of maturity, we need to address major hurdles like scale, security, and trust.
Q. Do healthcare organizations understand the value of interoperability?
Vyas: Over the last five years, healthcare organizations have come a long way in terms of understanding the value of interoperability. The 'carrots-and-sticks' approach adopted by the industry and federal government has played an important part in organizations realizing the potential of interoperability.
Q. How can new digital health tools play a part in promoting or achieving interoperability?
Vyas: Newer digital health tools are increasingly riding on the success of interoperable exchange of data. The liquidity, portability, and higher quality of data that such tools expose or ingest can fuel innovative business use cases and patient journeys.
Q. What more can or should be done to promote or achieve interoperability?
Vyas: We need to find solutions to emergent issues as part of our increasing adoption of interoperability. Scale, security, and trust are the next challenges that need to be addressed in time to maintain our momentum. The ONC’s Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) and CMS’ National Directory of Health Care Providers and Services are some of the evolving solutions to watch for.
Q. Should the government be incentivizing interoperability or penalizing those who aren't moving toward that goal?
Vyas: The 'carrots-and-sticks' approach adopted by the industry and federal government has played an important part in how organizations have adopted interoperability.
Q. What has surprised you, good or bad, about the path to interoperability?
Vyas: The healthcare industry's slow pace (or absolute lack) of adoption of evolving interoperability standards in the absence of incentives or penalties continues to surprise me.
“The healthcare industry's slow pace (or absolute lack) of adoption of evolving interoperability standards in the absence of incentives or penalties continues to surprise me.”
— Amol Vyas, vice president of interoperability, National Committee for Quality Assurance.
Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.
Amol Vyas is the NCQA's first VP of interoperability, with a background in EMR and Blue Button development.
Federal efforts like TEFCA and CMS' National Directory of Health Care Providers and Services are proof that progress is being made in the push for a nationwide health information exchange.
While the 'carrots-and-sticks' approach has worked, the healthcare industry has to ramp up its efforts toward interoperability.