Hope for Patient-Driven Interoperability and Innovation

This year marks my tenth year in health IT. Previously, I was a technologist in the government and non-profit sectors. My first introduction into health IT was working for an obstetrics EHR company. I had never heard of “HL7” prior to that, but it didn’t take long until I was immersed in the world of interfaces as I helped a hospital system build ADT feeds from their legacy MS4 System into the EHR I supported.

Over the course of ten years one would expect great innovation towards interoperability, yet the landscape looks much like it did when I began in this field. The more we innovate the more it seems that we haven’t moved the needle anywhere near enough to reach true interoperability. For the past four years, I have focused on behavioral health technology and it amazes me how far we still have to go to become truly interoperable and include data that will show us the whole picture of health for the patients we all ultimately serve.

As I have travelled the country, I have found people are often mystified by the federal governance on the exchange of substance abuse data provided by 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 2, which has stifled progress. The challenge isn’t a technical one – we can and have exchanged behavioral health data. The challenge is proper implementation, and for many, it is easier to forgo behavioral health data completely. Perhaps there is hope that the laws will change or that innovation will catch up and all types of data will be easier to exchange.

Health IT is ripe for disruption. As we focus on personalized medicine, incorporating genomics and data from wearables and health-related apps directly from our patients, interoperability will be demanded by health consumers and driven less by the healthcare vendors. Patients will be at the center, where they should be, demanding innovation in much the same way we have become “interoperable” with each other via our smartphones and the multitude of apps that are based on what we as consumers demand.

FHIR® is making strides to create an open framework where innovators are invited and encouraged to work together. I envision a world where vendors build complimentary solutions that foster seamless semantic interoperability. This is necessary to support population health management and analytics as advancing precision medicine and app-based data collection are creating a massive amount of data with the potential to be utilized. I believe interoperability and connected health will become synonymous.


About the Contributor

Laura Young is an information technology expert with over 25 years working within the IT industry with a focus on government, non-profit, education and healthcare. She has degrees in Information Technology and Health Services Management. Laura has been a leader in the healthcare IT sector for over 10 years with a specific focus on Clinical IT and HIE systems. Laura previously worked as an IT Director at Banner Health where she managed their private HIE and their ambulatory EHR. She joined Behavioral Health Network of Arizona (BHINAZ)  in January 2013 and spent almost 4 years as the Executive Director, becoming a Subject Matter Expert on HIE, Interoperability and 42 CFR Part 2. Laura joined Orion Health in October 2016 as the Director of Industry Relations and Solution Consulting. She currently serves nationally as the Co-Chair of the HIMSS Interoperability & Health Information Exchange Community, as well as the eHealth Initiatives Connecting Communities Workgroup. She also serves as President of the board of the Arizona HIMSS Chapter.