HIT Symposium Provides Analysis of Interoperability Landscape

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Healthcare Leadership Council panel discussion on interoperability on April 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kate Patterson)
Neil de Crescenzo, CEO, Change Health, moderated HLC’s HIT Symposium.

The Healthcare Leadership Council hosted a symposium on health information technology and the drive toward nationwide interoperability, featuring some of the most respected health IT leaders in the private sector.  Neil de Crescenzo, CEO of Change Healthcare, moderated the discussion.  The panelists included Jitin Asnaani, Executive Director of CommonWell Health Alliance; Jamie Ferguson, VP of Health IT Strategy & Policy at Kaiser Permanente; Marc Probst, CIO, Intermountain Healthcare; Marshall Ruffin, start-up founder, former EVP & CTO of Inova Health System; Micky Tripathi, President and CEO, Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative; and Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project.

The panel agreed that, in many instances, the average person does not want to manage their health data and that it is a service that health systems are able to provide.  It was acknowledged that while the large-scale systems had successfully achieve interoperability internally and even externally, community doctors are using different electronic health records with inconsistent data flows.  There are care process models with advanced decision support that incorporate health data and assist physicians.  Interoperability, however, remains a necessity.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Healthcare Leadership Council panel discussion on interoperability on April 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kate Patterson)
Jamie Ferguson of Kaiser Permanente highlighted the integration his organization has achieved.

The partnership between CommonWell Health Alliance and The Sequoia Project signals an important period of collaboration in the private sector, and the panel generally agreed that the government should play a supportive role that helps organizations achieve designated outcomes, rather than prescribe how these outcomes are reached. The Argonaut Project, which is a private sector initiative to advance industry adoption of modern, open interoperability standards, was used as a prime example of the progress the healthcare industry is making in catching up to other fields on the information technology front.

It was proposed that when health systems see the business value of interoperability then the uptake would increase.  The U.S. is waiting on the diffusion of innovations surrounding this issue, and the industry is only a few years into a long journey.  Great strides have been made in overcoming policy barriers, and now the focus is implementation maturity.  It was noted that movement towards Accountable Care Organizations drives interoperability, and including data such as social determinants can provide a total health approach.  One barrier cited in this area involved federal health privacy laws.

Another barrier is the alignment of vision and expectation for interoperability.  Participants said that focusing on too many problems can dilute the power that systems and vendors can have on resolving the high-value priorities.  The industry, they said, needs to be in touch with the community doctors who provide day-to-day care and are well aware of what functionality is truly needed.  The policy and standards panels do not have accurate representation from the regular health groups and physicians.  Continued collaboration and innovation, along with persistence and patience, will lead to successful interoperability in the healthcare system.