How much interoperability do doctors really want?

Dr. Alberto Borges recently wrote in MD Magazine,

“The ability to universally interconnect doctors and hospitals (the central, most important mandate of the HITECH Act) continues to elude us, and will be a daunting task with more than 400 non-interoperable ‘certified’ EHR systems in the marketplace (http://hcp.lv/kAwUHL).”

I have to wonder how many practicing doctors would actually prefer to have a lot more additional data and records to wade through about each patient.  If they could have access to years of data from every single healthcare facility that the patient has ever visited, then this presents us with the potential problem of a glut of  reading that is potentially a waste of time.  I wonder if anyone has thought about this issue.  On one hand, I tell myself, there is probably a snowball’s chance in hell of this ever becoming a reality, given the wealth and diversity of systems out there already or in the planning phases for coming online in the future.  On the other hand, what if it did happen?  I think it’s important to be careful what one wishes for.  It just might turn out to be less productive than one could hope.

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC.  He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009.  He can be reached at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

About the author

Dr. Michael West

Dr. Michael West

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

4 Comments

  • Of course there are other technologies waiting round the corner. All data entered about a patient can be splitted into factual data (must be encoded) and doctor’s notes (in plain text). Nobody will read your personal notes (and you probably don’t want to share it to others) but transmitted factual data can be automatically processed by systems like Clinical Decission Support Systems, filters, etc., thus you will see graphs, you will see only relevant parts of EMR and your system will automatically alert you on missing Tetanus vaccination without wading all the reports 5 years back!).

    Trust me; the more data you have; the clever system you get. But _data_! Not textual notes!

  • The issue of interoperabilty is a significant one, regulators need to drive interoperabilty standards that vendors can embrace. The issue of a potential data tsunami is just around the corner, with mobile devices, home based devices.
    IMHO the HIT vendor community needs to make giant steps forward, and move off legacy systems. Perhaps most important physician reimbursement will also have to change to drive new behavior

  • Michael, have you seen this video?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V35Kv6-ZNGA ?

    The core idea in the video is to share processable data (knowledge about the patient, knowledge about ongoing workflows) across all systems. No paper, no pencil, no notes 🙂

    Although it’s still a fairytale we can name technologies which will provide us in video proposed functionality. But we still need to develop all the ecosystem. No single product/company can deliver this today. 🙁

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