Where’s Interoperability Happening in Healthcare?

My tweet this morning inspired this post. Interoperability this and interoperability that. We hear all about interoperability everywhere in healthcare. It’s so important that ONC has put together a 10 year plan for healthcare interoperability. We have more interoperability initiatives than we have actual interoperability. I asked one EHR vendor recently about their thoughts on interoperability and which interoperability initiatives they were involved in. They responded that they were taking part in all of them and then they started listing off them all: Common Well, Argonaut, etc etc etc.

With all of this talk about interoperability, you’d think we’d have a wave of success stories. It’s hard for me to believe that with the hundreds of millions of dollars that’s been spent on HIEs and who knows how much money being spent by private organizations, we don’t have a wave of success stories.

You’d think by this point we’d have so many stories of lives saves, costs reduced and care improved that every organization would have to hop on the healthcare interoperability bandwagon. Peer pressure is a real thing. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have so many good interoperability stories that the peer pressure for everyone to take part isn’t reaching a maximum level.

Sadly, I think the opposite is occurring. All of the stories say that healthcare interoperability isn’t happening. These stories provide peer pressure in the opposite direction. “No one is doing it, so why should I start?”

Although, I think the real problem with interoperability was highlighted in this recent press release about the KLAS Keystone Summit. KLAS brought together 12 EHR vendors (we’ll leave a discussion of which EHR vendors were left out for another post) to “independently and transparently measure/assess the status and trajectory of interoperability.”

While it’s great that these EHR vendors have started talking (5 years ago this would have been laughable), it’s disappointing that this meeting where they supposedly “agree” to an interoperability metric then says “The next step is to put a cohesive plan in place to launch and monitor the measurement.”

Excuse me if I’m skeptical, but I feel like I’ve been here before. A bunch of vendors get together and agree to interoperability. The next step is to put together a plan which never happens and never actually reaches reality. I feel like I’m in interoperability groundhog day.

This isn’t a knock on this specific meeting since it seems to be what’s happened at every meeting which has tried to work on interoperability. We have a nice kumbaya moment where all the EHR vendor executives get in a circle, hold hands and say we’re going to work together and then it never happens.

We need to have more stories shared about EHR vendors and healthcare organizations actually sharing data. That’s going to be the only thing that will turn the tide. I don’t even care if it’s really small data sets. Let’s stop talking about interoperability and start doing it.

If you know of places where interoperability is actually occurring, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a note in the comment or on our contact us page.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, 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, EXPO.health, 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.

1 Comment

  • Ahhh, the elephant in the room. Once IO is required/mandated by the federal government somehow, it will happen. All healthcare systems are trying to balance good patient care with fiscal responsibility. Anything that costs them extra FTEs or money to vendors is generally to be avoided unless it’s required. The vendors are content to not spend money developing it if it worn’t sell. Once it’s mandated, you can bet they will have a product ready at some additional contract price. They’ll pull the money out of their existing clients for as long as possible between announcement of the mandate and the implementation date. After that they will simply add it to the existing product list as base functionality.

    The vendor lobbyists do a great job of getting these new standards passed. Every one of them should be followed by a “Ka-ching” sounds as healthcare systems rush to their vendors bleeding our healthcare dollars.

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