A Bridge Too Far for HIT: Why Interoperability Silos Are Far From Broken

A Bridge Too Far for HIT: Why Interoperability Silos Are Far From Broken
Ruby Raley

Guest post by Ruby Raley, Director, Healthcare Solutions, Axway.

Farzad Mostashari, the national coordinator for health information technology (HIT), wants software vendors to enable and ease interoperability.

Meaningful use Stage 2 expects providers to be able to exchange data with other EHRs.

The CommonWell Health Alliance — a collaboration of executives from Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway, and RelayHealth — aims “to push the needle on interoperability . . . to enable care integration and data liquidity.

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CommonWell Opens Up Interoperability, or Does It?

If you love drama, there may be no better time than now to be in health IT. Specifically, the CommonWell Health Alliance movement – spearheaded by vendor giants Allscripts, Athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway and McKesson — to promote health information exchange.

However, as we all know, the one giant in the room not to be invited to the dance, Epic, is crying foul.

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CommonWell Health Alliance: Until We See Proof of Life, this is Little More than Good PR

On its face, the CommonWell Health Alliancee really seems to hit the mark. A collection of the top EHR vendors coming together, sharing a stage and shaking hands; smiling; snapping photos of smiling happy CEOs. All together for one cause, or so the story goes: healthcare data interoperability. According to the “organization’s” website, interoperability is the cornerstone of healthcare’s future.

“Interoperability helps improve quality, reduce costs, enable regulatory compliance and ensure better access to healthcare for millions of people,” and so on and so forth.

Finally, CommonWell’s call to action: moving the healthcare industry beyond just recognizing the importance of interoperability, but moving the industry forward. CommonWell is supposed to be the health IT superhero that moved this giant boulder up the hill and positions it so eloquently on the top.

For those of us who didn’t know this already, CommonWell sums it up: “It’s time for healthcare IT organizations to come together and commit to achieving interoperability for the common good,” and so on and so forth.

So glad it took the giants of the industry to tell us as much.

Okay, so admittedly, this is a step in the right direction. It’s like putting big money behind a good cause. For everyone who has ever worked in the nonprofit trenches who spend their days begging the haves for the have nots, this a dream come true.

Those in the spot light can move us forward to a point where we must be. Allowing private enterprise to bear this mantle means we might finally make the move forward instead of being held back by the shackles of the federal reform and imposition.

After all, wasn’t interoperability a staple of meaningful use; an “industry consortium to adopt common standards and protocols to provide sustainable, cost-effective, trusted access to patient data,” if you will?

Because of meaningful use, we were supposed to be singing in circles by now, discussing all of the advancements we’ve made; our coming together and our ascending to the precipice. Alas, little has been attained through federally funded meaningful use except implementation and wars of words.

We waited, didn’t we? Long enough? Perhaps, perhaps not; depends on who you ask. Farzad Mostashari says we should wait a bit longer for the results to role in. The boys at Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway, McKesson and Relay Health (imagine the feelings of all the other vendor’s CEOs who were left out of this pre-arranged agreement; I guess there’s mincing words anymore) decided private enterprise is the way for things to actually get done.

And while it’s an interesting experiment, I think I agree with some of the other more intelligent folks in the field. Until we see some sort of actual forward movement with this initiative and until there’s some proof of life, this is really nothing more than a stake in the ground. A happy public relations move designed to flex a little corporate muscle on the industry’s largest stage.