Jim Younkin is the Information Technology Director, Geisinger Health System, and Director of Keystone Health Information Exchange.
HIMSS: Please describe your current involvement with HIMSS and IHE USA and their benefits.
Younkin: I became interested in IHE USA after our HIE installed an IHE-based platform for data exchange in 2009. This has allowed our HIE to provide much better workflow integration with the EHR systems used by participating hospitals and practices.
Based on recent experiences with connecting several EHR systems to the HIE, I became involved with IHE USA to further the cause of interoperability. I now represent the IHE USA board on the ConCert by HIMSS Advisory Committee, where we focus on helping to make a formal certification process an industry standard that health IT consumers can rely on.
IHE USA continues to lead the charge for better connectivity by providing an environment that vendors can road test the interoperability of their systems with other vendors. Vendors participating in this collaborative network will be far ahead of competitors that focus solely on the inner workings of their products. For example, a vendor may have the best software application on the market for a particular category, but if it can’t talk with other EHRs, its value to customers will be limited.
HIMSS: Please describe the value of the testing that takes place annually at IHE North American Connectathon, sponsored by IHE USA on Jan. 25-29, 2016 in Cleveland.
Younkin: I am always impressed when I visit the testing center. Here, health IT competing vendors run tests with each other’s products to ensure the interoperability. This has become an essential step to participating in the Interoperability Showcase, which continues to expand each year at the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition. This testing process ensures that products coming to market are tested beyond an individual vendor’s system, and ultimately, creates a better experience for customers that use the product(s) to connect with HIEs and other healthcare providers.
HIMSS: How is the IHE North American Connectathon changing the future of interoperability?
Younkin: As connectivity certification ramps up and health IT consumers demand better product interoperability, more vendors from across the healthcare continuum continue to join in this live testing process. As connectivity opportunities increase between patients and their healthcare providers, I expect to see more testing with medical devices and personal fitness equipment.
This promises better real-time monitoring and embedded alerting systems. As nursing home and home health agency connections become the norm in data exchange for the new risk-based payment models, I also expect to see more long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) vendors testing their products.
Finally, as folks begin to test the ability to support cross-enterprise document workflow, data exchange can reach a new level. In this connected healthcare community, physicians and other care providers can use health IT tools that best suit their needs. As a result, they also will know they can easily receive the needed information to provide the best care, and securely transmit the necessary information to others playing a role in the care of their patients, including patients and their family.