#EmpowerHIT: The Quest for Interoperability

The demand for better interoperability has risen to the top of expectations for healthcare information technology. Much progress has been made, thanks in part, to advances in certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) under the meaningful use program; however, there’s still a long road ahead before full interoperability is achieved.

Patient-Centered Healthcare

The journey to true patient-centered healthcare – where the patient’s data is available to each provider who needs it - cannot be completed without widespread interoperability. Interoperability leads to a more complete clinical record, which can be used to create accurate, actionable insights for decisions regarding patients’ care.

The recent agreement between CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality is a significant milestone to realizing the promises of interoperability. The result of this milestone agreement will be national-scale connectivity, which will allow providers to find and use the information they need to improve care for their patients.  Under terms of the agreement, CommonWell is becoming an implementer of Carequality on behalf of its members, while Carequality participants will be able to use a Carequality-compliant version of CommonWell’s Record Locator service. This means that both CommonWell and Carequality implementers will have additional access to data needed to give providers a more complete story of the patient.      

Interoperability in Day-to-Day Operations

The federal government is also pushing health organizations to make interoperability key to their day-to-day operations. Recent laws, such as the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures), aim to increase interoperability by penalizing “information blocking” of clinical data, by either vendors or provider groups. Another way that the Cures legislation seeks to improve interoperability is by creating or supporting a national-scale, trusted, network-to-network exchange framework. We believe the recent CommonWell-Carequality agreement can serve as example of how to meet this goal.

But even when widespread data sharing among CEHRT is available, the quest for interoperability will not be finished. One emerging trend that should add value to patient care is the Internet of Things (IoT).;

Internet of Things - IoT

With the IoT, many smart, connected technologies will be able to exchange data with each other and with patients and their care providers. This flood of new kinds of data can deliver near real-time insights and value, but for this data to reach the right providers and be useful in support of care, a new generation of interoperability standards and governance frameworks will be needed. EHR developers will have to learn how to incorporate types and volumes of data never before available, and care teams will have to expand their concepts of care to utilize the broader perspectives delivered from near real-time monitoring of patient and consumer activity.

One thing is certain – the quest for interoperability will stretch far into the future. The promise is better, safer and more effective care.

John Gresham is vice president and general manager, DeviceWorks and Interoperability, Cerner.

This post is also featured on the HIMSS17 site

Health IT; patient care; healthcare; interoperability