Interoperability Helps—But is it Enough?

Posted by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on 3/7/16 11:23 AM

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During a keynote address during the HIMMS 2016 Conference and Exhibition, HHS
Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced a broad industry initiative to improve health data interoperability, information sharing and patient engagement. Heavy hitters that have taken the pledge include HHS, Epic and Cerner.

“These commitments are a major step forward in our efforts to support a health-careehr.jpg system that is better, smarter and results in healthier people,” Burwell said.  “Technology isn’t just one leg of our strategy to build a better health-care system for our nation – it supports the entire effort.”

To achieve this, 90 percent of the EHR industry in the U.S. has agreed to implement three principles. These include:

  • Reduce information blocking
  • Increase patient access to health data
  • Embrace national interoperability standards

To those of us in the health-care industry, this is big news—but is it going to be enough?

In a lot of ways, this is just another vague commitment to work together. That said, these same groups have made these commitments before. So I’m not sure that there are real benefits behind the words of collaboration. After all, each of these organizations (maybe with the exception of HHS) is working to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

That said, kudos to the industry for making the pledge to make health data more usable, but let's not stop at EHR interoperability—there’s a lot more work to be done. Rather than simply making the data soup bigger, we have to focus on making it more intuitive and actionable for patients and providers.

I said in a previous blog post that interoperability will certainly make sharing information easier, but I still don’t think it will solve all of our problems. I still firmly believe that we need to focus on the patient as a whole—and that means combining clinical and socioeconomic data to provide better care.

Topics: Healthcare IT, EHRs