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:
— Sylvia Burwell (@SecBurwell) March 1, 2016
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.