Only Incentives Will Make EHR Interoperability Happen

Posted on April 26, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today we had a really interesting #HITsm chat about interoperability, data hoarding, and sharing healthcare data. Tomorrow we’ll have a post on EMR and EHR that summarizes some of the key tweets from the chat. Although, there was one theme that really struck home to me during the chat.

The biggest barrier to EHR interoperability and data sharing is incentives.

During the chat multiple people including myself made the observation that the reason EHR vendors don’t share data is that there’s no incentive to share data. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a hospital choose to not go with an EHR because it couldn’t interoperate with another EHR vendor. The incentive isn’t there for the hospital and therefore the EHR vendor.

Think about the EHR interoeprability announcement of CommonWell. While the CEO’s of the five EHR vendors can sit there and say that they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do for healthcare, these public company CEOs also have a legal responsibility to do what’s best for the shareholders of their company.

The reality is that CommonWell would have never happened if there wasn’t an incentive for these companies to put CommonWell together. Rather than beat around the bush, these EHR companies came together to stick it to Epic and to give them a strategic advantage over other companies that can’t or won’t share data. You can certainly make an argument for why doing this is good for healthcare as well, but if there was no outside business incentive to CommonWell then the healthcare benefit wouldn’t have been enough.

As one person tweeted during the Twitter chat, If there were money paid for sharing data, all the fear and issues would suddenly disappear and solutions provided.

When thinking about incentivizing EHR interoperability, Farzad Mostashari’s words at The Breakaway Group event at TEDMED come ringing into my ears, “Incentives and money aren’t always the same.” Cash or otherwise, EHR interoperability needs some incentive.