A Circular Chat On Healthcare Interoperability

About a week ago, a press release on health data interoperability came into my inbox. I read it over and shook my head. Then I pinged a health tech buddy for some help. This guy has seen it all, and I felt pretty confident that he would know whether there was any real news there.

And this is how our chat went.


“So you got another interoperability pitch from one of those groups. Is this the one that Cerner kicked off to spite Epic?” he asked me.

“No, this is the one that Epic and its buddies kicked off to spite Cerner,” I told him. “You know, health data exchange that can work for anyone that gets involved.”

“Do you mean a set of technical specs? Maybe that one that everyone seems to think is the next big hope for application-based data sharing? The one ONC seems to like.” he observed. “Or at least it did during the DeSalvo administration.”

“No, I mean the group working on a common technical approach to sharing health data securely,” I said. “You know, the one that lets doctors send data straight to another provider without digging into an EMR.”

“You mean that technology that supports underground currency trading? That one seems a little bit too raw to support health data trading,” he said.

“Maybe so. But I was talking about data-sharing standards adopted by an industry group trying to get everyone together under one roof,” I said. “It’s led by vendors but it claims to be serving the entire health IT world. Like a charity, though not very much.”

“Oh, I get it. You must be talking about the industry group that throws that humungous trade show each year.” he told me. “A friend wore through two pairs of wingtips on the trade show floor last year. And he hardly left his booth!”

“Actually, I was talking about a different industry group. You know, one that a few top vendors have created to promote their approach to interoperability.” I said. “Big footprint. Big hopes. Big claims about the future.”

“Oh yeah. You’re talking about that group Epic created to steal a move from Cerner.” he said.

“Um, sure. That must have been it,” I told him. “I’m sure that’s what I meant.”


OK, I made most of this up. You’ve got me. But it is a pretty accurate representation of how most conversations go when I try to figure out who has a chance of actually making interoperability happen. (Of course, I added some snark for laughs, but not much, believe it or not.)

Does this exchange sound familiar to anyone else?

And if it does, is it any wonder we don’t have interoperability in healthcare?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Your article on the circular chat of interoperability struck a cord with me. The issues of standards/proprietary systems, lack of compliance to standards and inability to share data will continue until we have a major financial incentive to do so. That’s nothing new to most of those who read this or similar threads. If you’re looking to solve the problem drive it from a revenue standpoint rather than a standards one. I’m not diminishing the importance of standards and compliance, so don’t get me wrong there. However, someone has to pay for the development, integration or other work and it’s unlikely going to be directly paid by the patient or the provider unless there is an associated benefit. This leads to value/risk based contracts and the associated incentives to all parties. The services providers, like Velocity Health Informatics, then need to be able to provide scalable and cost-effective integration, data quality and HIM services to ensure the right data goes to the correct record.


  • Rather than even more incentives that those already extracted from the Feds and benefitted by EHR vendors, why not disincentives for not allowing free access to patient data? I agree there needs to incentives and disincentives are another kind of incentive and just as ore even more effective. The failure of the HITECH act was not to address patient data accessibility in the first place when the law was written. EHR vendors have already benefitted handsomely. It’s time that patients get the benefits of having their data shared without being hit with even more bills than they already have (we know all healthcare costs flow down to patients.)

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