By John Kelly, chief technology officer, PatientKeeper, Inc.
If there’s a topic in healthcare IT that has absorbed more ink over the past decade than “interoperability,” I can’t imagine what it would be. (Well, going back to 2009, “meaningful use” may rank a close second.)
The federal government has taken a significant interest in advancing health IT interoperability. For instance, Title IV of the 21st Century Cures Act is all about it, and in 2020 ONC promulgated rules designed to push the industry along to make interoperability a practical reality. One specific way is through an application programming interface (API) approach that “supports health care providers’ independence to choose the ‘provider-facing’ third-party services they want to use to interact with the certified API technology they have acquired.”
But, generally speaking, government mandates have paved a slow and bumpy road to any health IT goal. They focus on rules and regulations rather than incentives (admittedly, meaningful use was a different case). And thus far, that has been the fate of interoperability.
The metaphor our parent company, Commure, uses to describe healthcare today is a city without roads. We built the “city” of healthcare, populated with over 3,000 healthcare IT companies, without considering the pathways that would connect them. Healthcare lacks the proper infrastructure and connectivity to collect and serve up data in ways that will meaningfully transform the way care is accessed, coordinated, delivered, and experienced.
I believe healthcare IT is, at long last, on the cusp of finally realizing the much-hyped, yet elusive promise of true interoperability. Why now? Because of the cloud, and cloud vendors’ embrace of open standards in their APIs, notably FHIR.