Interoperability Showcase at HIMSS 10

The interoperability showcase is a really interesting part of HIMSS. They have 80 organizations and vendors that are participating in a wide variety of interoperability scenarios. It’s such a great idea to bring these vendors together to show interoperable EMR.

The problem I have with this concept is that they had the same showcase at HIMSS 09, no? Have we seen any real progress towards interoperability? I guess the question is a bit open for debate, but I can’t say that I’ve seen any huge progress towards interoperability since the last showcase. Is that because there are political and funding issues that are blocking the interoperability from happening?

I guess the point is that the interoperability showcase seems to show that interoperability is possible from a technical standpoint, but it must be something else that’s stopping its success.

Does that mean that we’re focusing on the wrong problem (the technical) when it comes to EMR Interoperability?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • You hit upon the issue. I am a software engineer in the healthcare IT field and the issues are NOT technical. They are political and business issues. Vendors do not have good reason to interoperate in the field, and have more incentive to try and upsell customers instead of integrate with another vendor. Especially true of the big vendors. The same is true in medical imaging. The interoperability and IHE showcases at HIMSS and RSNA are a joke right now. The engineers at the showcase have one story, and the sales people in the booth have another.

  • Also it is because of the lack of products in the field that implement standards such as XDS and its ilk. Without a MANDATED framework for interoperability that is ENFORCED in the field, it will not happen unless customers drive it in their own facilities.

  • There is a standard – HL7 – there is NO reason not to have dynamic interaction between whatever product. The HIMSS demo is a sham as a marketing tool. All the vedors the vendor run and supported HIMSS know this and simply are using it as a ploy to make it seem like they are “better” because they are cutting edge. Medscribbler has had a two way dynamic HL7 for years but the second one of our customers want to link Medscribbler to the regional “big boy” THEY CRY that it is not possible. Either their programmers are idiots (which I don’t believe) or they are LIARS !!!!! This is the very ugly side of capitalism here!

  • I also am a software engineer, but have not worked directly in the healthcare IT field. Interoperability is quite possible, but only if you ask the right questions.

    Ask each vendor to show you a sample patient record in XML format. All record hierarchies can be expressed simply in XML, even if they are actually a relational database (most likely). The only thing that will promote interoperability of patient data is if the venders agree on how to place the data within a hierarchy. XML is the Rossetta Stone for sorting things out.

    (btw: A good XML layout will be fairly shallow (lateral) — not requiring one to “drill down” to obscene depths to find a piece of patient data.)

  • Thanks for the excellent comments. No doubt there’s some major problems ahead of us when it comes to interoperability. I was encouraged by some of the other things I saw as far as interoperability and vendor related methods to solve the HIE problem. The only question I have is what cost will we have to pay to get to that point because the payment for it has to happen in some way or another. Even if it’s payment of our data being used.

  • David – HL7 is just an XML file with a standard layout format.

    John – your comment is indicative of the problem – HIE is a problem of culture not technology or cost. Capitalism encourages lying by entrenched product vendors when confronted with technology that will seriuosly challenge their jobs. They do this by selling “complexity” – ie. “It is too complex to be left to anyone but us” – you are encouraging it by giving any credibility to these crooks – you are encouraing inaction by giving these liars any credence. You have two software programmers, one totally unbiased, telling you it is not a technical problem and a small vendor who is telling you it is not a cost thing! Medscribbler has an HL7 interface – we have been denied interopertability with Centrity and Eclinicalworks when their customers have asked for Medscribbler for their offices!! The problem is not ours or theirs – they advertise they have HL7 interfaces – it is one of capitalism – they are legacy when compared to Medscribbler and they know it !!!!

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