Earlier this month, several key EHR executives and healthcare service providers met at the KLAS Keystone Summit to confer about the many-headed beast known as “interoperability” and how to defeat it. They reached consensus on an appropriate metric to measure and report found data to Utah based IT research firm, KLAS. The metric will receive data and evaluate an EHR’s ability to interact with other EHR’s, if at all, and reliably translate that data across platforms.
“The consensus on an objective measure is a great step forward for the industry as executives find ways to overcome the complex issue of interoperability,” reported KLAS President and CEO, Adam Gale.
According to John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and interoperability expert, this is done in two ways: through the experience of clinicians and the total count of transactions. This will directly help practitioners comply with the Meaningful Use program, which is “concentrated on counting transactions,” Halamka notes.
Think about it this way: almost a decade ago, each cell phone manufacturer had their own brand-specific (often times even model-specific) chargers. There were so many different varieties; you didn’t know what to do with them all. There was no uniformity – it was bedlam. Black was white, up was down, Britney Spears was still on the radio. Eventually, the micro USB rose to the top and became the standard – not including Apple’s Lightning
We are seeing a version of this happening in the EHR world right now. The vendors and service providers will remain just as strong as they were, perhaps stronger, once the common thread of interoperability is woven, properly, into the fabric of the EHR industry. We will have the capacity to pull data from one vendor to another seamlessly without losing quality. This is the first major step up on what is likely to be a very tall ladder in that direction.
However, progress is being made by leaps and bounds all over the sector; the Keystone summit just happens to be the first step made by vendors. Back in April, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee formed a bipartisan working group to develop legislation tackling electronic health record-related issues. The group is led by ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn). You read that right: Senate Republicans and Democrats are working together.
According to the National Journal, the working group is discussing:
- Bolstering standards
- Ensuring that the EHR certification system does what is intended to
- Improving access to EHRs for all members of a healthcare team
- Improving patient access to their medical records
- Limiting “physician documentation”
- Preventing information blocking
- Strengthening the security and privacy of EHRs
Another piece of legislation, the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT) Act of 2015, which requires the ONC to develop a rating system with specific regards to interoperability, usability, and security.
It is going to be a while before we reach full interoperable functionality, but we are coming together as an industry, and as a community. Improving interoperability has been, and will remain, the number one priority of the health IT community.
Author: Cory Clark