EHR Vendor Commitments to Make Data Work at #HIMSS16

As I think back on the first day and a half of HIMSS, I think that this might be the biggest news of the conference so far:

It seems that most people see this as a hollow commitment. Some might argue that we’re jaded by past history and they’d be right. However I’d make a different argument. Interoperability is hard and there are plenty of incentives not to do it. I don’t see this changing because EHR vendors commit to being interoperable.

Let’s be honest. Saying that they’ve “committed” doesn’t matter if they have no skin in the game. There’s no payment for successfully creating a product that’s interoperable. There’s no penalty for not being interoperable. That’s not ONC and HHS’ fault. They only have the levers that the government provides them. There are just so many easy ways for EHR vendors to feign interest in a real commitment to interoperability without actually executing on that vision.

While this type of announcement at HIMSS doesn’t really make me think that the dynamics around healthcare interoperability will change, I do like HHS’ decision to have EHR vendors work out the interoperability problem. If the government couldn’t solve interoperability with $36 billion in incentive money and penalties to boot, do we really think they can do anything to change the equation? At least on their own. This has to be an industry focused effort or it won’t happen.

While I must admit that I’m slowly becoming a skeptic of ever achieving true interoperability of health data, I think we will see point examples where data is being shared. I’m always intrigued by great companies who realize that they can’t be everything, but they can be something. I think we’ll see more of more companies like this.

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.

1 Comment

  • Hey John,
    This “committment” is more of the same BS. Even Judy from Epic thinks her software is a work of art and interoperable already…what a joke. I had to laugh when Karen from ONC feels that we should sense a change by Fall 2016…OMG she just does not get it. I’m gonna rant about Karen DeSalvo and ONC…. after her and Andy Slavitt went at it again today, it appears that Andy Slavitt, of all people, is actually hearing front line providers that the state of Health IT and EHR is terrible, and Karen, well, she just wants to put a positive spin on everything in typical “Washington DC Policy” manner. I now see after Andy had the January “MU is dead surprise” speech and Karen scolded him the next day, again, it appears the same thing is happening at HIMSS, Karen wants to spin deceptively positive stats and backslap each other about the perfect EHR programs they made and Andy, is much more critical and wants to get things fixed. Anyway, until I can actually look at a patients record from a competitive hospital from across town that is using Epic, and I am using Cerner, and I can easily, efficiently view all the notes, labs, xrays etc…then interoperability is a joke. Right now, I would have to ask the patient to ask the hospital to fax me the records, and the patient would have to ask the hospital to burn a CD of the images and pick it up and bring it to me. That is 2016 interop. Since I am not on staff at the competing hospital, I am not a user, nor credentialed, nor have any ability to log into their system online and view records and I cannot view images about my patient. Very rarely could a patient do that either. Most have NO idea how to view their records, and certainly they would not have access to actual xrays, etc. Even if I was given a username and password, it would have to spend precious time logging in, finding the records, learning yet another EHR system, and putting up with all the password changes, etc. Its a mess. Another good example of a good idea that is implemented terribly, is Narcotic Prescription monitoring programs, requires us to go to a website, log in, they change the password every 3 months, then we have to agree to its use, type in the first name, last name zip code sex, birthday, back and forth from the EHR to the website. submit the form, and then wait for it to process, then download the file. It takes an enormous effort to make that efficient and usable, all that back and forth and typing, get one thing wrong and it fails. We have an ENORMOUS gulf between what Karen and Sylvia think is interop and what is usable, efficient and functioning on the front line.

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