Andy Slavitt Talks Healthcare Interoperability and Data Blocking

In all the reporting around meaningful use being replaced (or as many mis-reported meaningful use ending), Andy Slavitt also made a number of other points in his talk at JP Morgan’s Healthcare conference. Much like he did with meaningful use, he live tweeted his talk. Here were a couple of his non-meaningful use tweets that stood out to me.

Has there ever been any doubt that HHS was serious about wanting organizations to be interoperable and for data blocking not to exist? There hasn’t for me. It’s been one of their main goals. The problem is two fold. First, CMS is fighting an uphill battle against the economic realities that not sharing data has been very profitable for healthcare organizations. Second, CMS only has so much power available to them to make interoperability a requirement.

Despite these challenges, CMS is doing everything in their power to encourage and promote interoperability. Put another way, they’re trying everything they can to make it so that interoperability is a wise business decision for healthcare organizations. Although, much of what they’re trying to do also harkens back to a statement I heard from Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth that, “Interoperability should not be used as a point of competition.”

The problem is that today interoperability is used as a point of competition. We’re seeing that change, but it’s slow and there are still many who haven’t made the change. Plus, all of the interoperability solutions that have been offered (yes, I’m looking at the popular FHIR standard) are still quite limited in scope. They’re really just evolutions on existing interoperability and not a revolution to what interoperability should and could become.

Plus, I fear that many of these new interoperability options are really just creating a new market for vendors to charge providers. When you think about it, what’s the easiest way to block the sharing of information? Just charge too much for it. More on this in a future article.

Ironically, I think my perspective on Andy Slavitt’s comments on interoperability and information blocking are not all that different from my view on meaningful use. Andy and the people at CMS are saying the right things. They’re seeing the right dynamics at play in the market place. The problem is that they’re hands are tied in many ways and the bureaucratic process could lead to something even worse if they’re not careful. No doubt they’re dealing with really challenging, complex issues. It’s good to know that their hearts are in the right place. I just hope that regulation and legislation matches it.

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.


  • Hi Tom,
    Thanks for sharing that article. You make some good points. Although you reference the issue being that narrow APIs that allow point to point connections are the problem with the current model. If we could get broad APIs with open connections, then it wouldn’t be a problem. You point out that doing that for PHI can be a real challenge. However, I think it’s more likely to happen than getting organizations to export all their data to a data bank for others to use. Of course, neither is likely to happen very quickly.

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