The New Buzz Word in Healthcare: Interoperability
The big news that came out of this year’s HIMSS conference held last week in New Orleans is “interoperability”. Six of the nation’s largest healthcare IT software vendors announced the CommonWell Health Alliance. Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway and RelayHealth touted what they say is a first-of-its-kind organization: a collaboration of rival vendors, uniting to enable care integration and data liquidity. It was an idea whose time had come. While it does not end vendor competition…….it does provide a platform to ease access to data across systems and settings, in compliance with patient authorization. And this is the direction IT systems have to go in for sharing data between systems in order to achieve cost lowering strategies that result in better quality of care.
“One of the key challenges we face is not just automated healthcare but connected and together care,” said Hammergren. “Data liquidity necessary to make it happen.” McKesson Chairman and CEO John Hammergren said in a statement announcing the new alliance.
The Mission for CommonWell Health Alliance
As presented on Monday at HIMSS13, CommonWell Health Alliance aims to define and promote the following core services and standards while enabling care integration and data liquidity: Patient Linking and Matching: Provide a way for vendors to identify patients as they move from setting to setting, in a robust and seamless industry-wide data environment. Patient Access and Consent Management: -Foster a HIPAA-compliant, patient-controlled means to simplify the management of consents and authorizations for data sharing. Record Locator Service and Directed Query: Enable providers to match the locations of a patient’s previous health care encounters, no matter where the encounter occurred, and gain access to that data in an industry standard way.
The alliance is but a first step in this process, but with 75% of physicians and over 80% of hospitals already using EHR systems; providing a platform that allow these systems to share data is the next key step.
The questions associated with this move are obvious……..will my present system be adequate? How much will this cost? Who will pay for it? What software languages will it support? How will HIPAA compliance be assured? And these are just the obvious questions…..the technical implications are rocket science.
The healthcare industry, while traditionally slow to react to IT innovation, has struck a harmonious chord with interoperability……now let’s see if they can really make it happen.