The Interoperability Non-Controversy
Nobody is explicitly opposed to interoperability in healthcare IT. That would be like opposing the eradication of poverty or hunger or child slavery. People of good will – providers, payers, vendors, regulators – just can’t argue against it. The potential benefits are too clear.
Nobody says interoperability is bad, only difficult. There are legitimate concerns (and real complexity) around data security, semantic consistency, and patient matching, to name just a few thorny technical issues.
That said, the not-so-secret truth is some vendors are more resistant to interoperability (or make it more difficult) than others for proprietary business reasons, while some vendors work hard to make interoperability a practical reality for provider organizations.
It’s this inconsistency of effort, more than technology, that’s driving government regulators to act. In a statement last week accompanying the release of ONC’s “interoperability roadmap”, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said, “It’s time to free up [healthcare] data so patients and providers can securely access their health information when and where they need it. A successful learning system relies on an interoperable health IT system where information can be collected, shared and used to improve health, facilitate research and inform clinical outcomes.”
And so the push toward interoperability technical standards is on in earnest, or so it seems. Healthcare IT News wrote, “Some believe the momentum is right – at long last.” We’ll see.
In the meantime, hospitals seeking practical interoperability can avail themselves of creative health IT solutions that utilize integrations and interfaces to give users, especially physicians, an extremely satisfying user experience: a unified, interoperable EHR environment, comprised of multiple highly functional systems. C’mon, who’s against that?