I’ve had this discussion come up over and over again today in a series of discussions that I’ve had at the NYeC’s Digital Health Conference in NYC. Many people are blaming the EHR vendors for not being interoperable. Other people are blaming standards. Some like to blame HIPAA (which is ironic since it was passed to make health data portable). There are many more reasons that people give for why healthcare isn’t exchanging data and that interoperability isn’t a reality.
Although, in all of these discussions, I keep going back to the core question of whether hospitals and healthcare organizations really want that healthcare data to be interoperable. As I look back on the past, I can think of some doctors who’ve wanted it for a while, but I think the healthcare industry as a whole didn’t really want interoperability to happen. They would never admit this in public, because we all know on face that there are benefits to the healthcare system and the patient for interoperability. However, interoperability would have been a bad thing financially for many healthcare organizations.
It’s one of the dirty little secrets of healthcare. Sure, the EHR vendors never provided the interoperability functionality, but that’s largely because the healthcare providers never asked for it and largely didn’t want that functionality. They were all a little complicit in hiding the dirty little secret that healthcare organizations were benefiting from the inefficiency of the system.
I’m extremely hopeful that we’re starting to see a shift away from the above approach. I think the wheels are turning where hospitals are starting to see why their organization is going to need to be interoperable or their reimbursement will be affected. ACOs are leading this charge as the hospitals are going to need the data from other providers in order to improve the care they provide and lower costs.
Now, I think the biggest barrier to interoperability for most hospitals is figuring out the right way to approach it. Will their EHR vendor handle it? Do they need to create their own solution? Are CCD’s enough? Should they use Direct? Should they use a local HIE? Should they do a private HIE? Of course, this doesn’t even talk about the complexities of the hospital system and outside providers. Plus, there’s no one catch all answer.
I hope that we’re entering a new era of healthcare interoperability. I certainly think we’re heading in that direction. What are you seeing in your organizations?