EHR Interoperability and the Transcontinental Railroad

Posted on April 7, 2009 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.

I recently read a nice article comparing EHR interoperability to the Transcontinental Railroad. They hit the key point when they said, “Just as standardizing the railroad gauge created a uniform distance between tracks so that track the came from the East and West would fit together, health care IT standards will create a seamless and interoperable IT infrastructure that will benefit the entire nation.”

I find the comparison incredibly intriguing and thought provoking.

The only problem I have with the comparison is that the transcontinental railroad was merging essentially 2 standards (east and west) and standardizing the gauge was the only standard needed. In health care IT we have far more stakeholders in the game and far more standards that need to be established (allergies, labs, RX, diagnosis, just to start).

This doesn’t diminish the value of the comparison since it’s often valuable to see a complicated challenge in a simplified way. I’m just saying that creating a standard in HIT is going to be much more difficult.