On the topic of interoperability, it’s interesting to see the varying perspectives on what will drive positive change. At HIMSS16 last week, I observed a panel of presenters from the ONC including Karen De Salvo, and then participated in a presentation from Jonathan Bush and Dr. John Halamka. The two sessions couldn’t have been more different, even though both presentations were clearly focused on the topics of interoperability and data sharing.
During the ONC panel discussion, we heard of a number of initiatives, acronyms and task forces being launched by the ONC to promote standards, safety, security, and efficiency, which they hope will promote better data sharing. Contrast that with the presentation from Halamka and Bush “How FutureProof IT Infrastructure Promotes Data Sharing,” where they spoke of competition driving rapid change.
Let’s consider that a bit. What has the quest for compliance accomplished for us the past 5 years? Has it increased the amount of technology deployed in hospitals and clinics all over the U.S.? Absolutely. Has it fundamentally improved data sharing? Not so much.
According to Halamka, 2,825 vendors are certified at some level via the ONC today, yet 55% of patients report that their medical history is incomplete or missing when they visit their doctor. Bush pointed out that 65% of patient data exchanges happen outside the control of a health entity’s CIO – a staggering statistic that has real implications on the future of health IT purchasing.
As healthcare entities are now truly seeing the effects of the new payment models and a shift to more self-pay, the emphasis on data sharing has become highly acute. What does that mean?
The EHR vendor community has to compete on the basis of data sharing today. The EHR vendors need to not only be effective at sharing data, but they must become the aggregators and instigators of data sharing to stay competitive and viable – because that is what the market is demanding. Those that perform well in this regard will thrive and those that don’t will die. You can bet this will drive more interoperability in far less time than a task force takes to make a decision or the time it takes the ONC to publish a final rule.
This isn’t a political point about the free market vs. government regulation (although feel free to read into this if you like), it’s a statement about the rapid shift that is occurring in this industry. If you are a health provider right now, get ready, because very soon you won’t be able to blame the vendors for data blocking or overpriced interfaces. However, you will need to choose a set of vendors that have kept up with the industry or you will be left behind.
Pay attention to the emerging APIs and capabilities being spawned by standards such as FHIR, Surescripts, Commonwell, and Sequoia. The vendor community is realizing their future depends on this, because your future depends on it.
Long story short, compliance might have instigated a focus, but competition will drive change. This change is coming quickly, so don’t get so stuck in compliance mode where you miss the opportunity to compete.
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