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Interoperability Rising to the Top

The challenge of interoperability continues to be the buzz of the healthcare industry and is now deemed a top priority by the federal government. According to an article released by the White House, this means “being able to share patient data in an instant regardless of what hospital, pharmacy, laboratory, or clinic houses the information—and being able to do so with complete reliability and privacy protection.”

The Administration made it clear that they believe medical data belongs to patients; and that putting decisions in the hands of the consumers of health care will drive innovation and competition, and reduce waste, fraud and costs.

This effort was echoed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the 2018 HIMSS conference in Las Vegas where the CMS Administrator Seema Verna announced the MyHealthEData initiative designed to make the patient “the center of our healthcare system.”

She acknowledged that the industry has made progress getting paper medical records into electronic systems but she also pointed out that “doctors are still faxing medical records back and forth.” She also addressed those bad actors who create barriers between patients and their medical records stating that, “the days of finding creative ways to trap patients in your system must end. It’s not acceptable to limit patient records or to prevent them and their doctor from seeing their complete history outside a particular healthcare system.”

She adds that the future of interoperability will rely on application programming interfaces (APIs) which is something we have already seen recently as Google announced a new cloud-based API aimed specifically at interoperability in healthcare. They state that their goal “is to free up the flow of information leading to actionable insights from artificial intelligence and machine learning that can improve health outcomes.”

Amitech’s VP of Delivery, Paul Boal, has also made a business case for interoperability whereby he submits that we can overcome these challenges with some creativity and focus on business value and he provides five simple, yet effective, changes we can make to accelerate the adoption of healthcare interoperability. We see evidence of these kinds of creative attempts from the winners of the Health Data Provenance Challenge. Of the four winners, three “leveraged blockchain technology to address the accountability, privacy and security issues associated with sharing electronic health information.”

It is clear that we still have interoperability challenges ahead of us. But these challenges, coupled with a federal government adamant about putting data blocking practices to an end and empowering patients to be true customers, create an environment fertile with opportunity. Now is the time to challenge our own assumptions and focus on the business value for better patient data access, and a more interoperable healthcare system.

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