Interoperability Needs Action, Not Talk – #HIMSS13 Blog Carnival

Posted on February 8, 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.

When you talk to people outside of healthcare about the value of healthcare IT, you will often get a response that healthcare IT is fantastic because it makes it so easy for medical data to be shared with who needs the data when they need it. Those of us in healthcare IT know that this is far from the reality of what’s possible with healthcare data today. This is really unfortunate, because the promise of technology in healthcare is to make the movement of data possible. We’re currently missing out on the benefits of this promise.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing the excuses for why healthcare data can’t be shared. We’ve heard them all: privacy, security, data governance, payment model, etc etc etc. Yet we go to the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase and see that the technology to start sharing data is there, but what seems to be missing is the willpower to push the data sharing through despite the challenges and naysayers.

Maybe Farzad is on to something when he called for EHR vendors to do what’s “Moral and Right.” There’s no more moral or right thing someone can do in healthcare than to make healthcare data interoperable. It’s not only EHR vendors that need to do this, but hospital institutions and doctors offices as well.

We need some brave leaders in healthcare IT to step up and start sharing data. No, I don’t want an announcement at HIMSS that a healthcare organization has partnered with a vendor to start sharing data. I don’t want a new organization formed to assist with healthcare data sharing initiatives. I don’t need another book on the challenges of HIE. We don’t need a session on HIEs and data sharing standards. No, we need brave organizations that say that sharing healthcare data is the right thing to do and we’re making it happen.

I’m not suggesting an organization should do anything ruthless or reckless. I’m suggesting that healthcare organization start DOing something as opposed to talking about it. The time for talking is over and the time for DOing is here. Healthcare data interoperability won’t happen until we make this choice to DO instead of TALK.

I’m not even asking for a healthcare organization to start sharing all their healthcare data everywhere. In fact, I think that’s another failed interoperability strategy that we seem to keep trying over and over. If you try to solve all of our healthcare interoperability problems in one major project, you’ll end up doing nothing and solve none of the problems.

Instead a successful interoperability strategy will focus on sharing one meaningful piece of healthcare data while still keeping in mind that this is just the start. Connect the healthcare data end points with that one meaningful piece of data. Once you make that connection, others will start to wonder why that same process can’t be used for other important and valuable pieces of healthcare data. This is exactly the push that healthcare interoperability needs. We need departments and providers jealous of other departments and providers that are sharing their data. The same principle of jealousy can apply across institutions as well.

Yes, this will take a forward looking leader that’s willing to take what many in healthcare would consider a risk. Imagine a hospital CIO whose stuck trying to explain why their hospital is sharing data that will help doctors provide better care to their patients. Imagine a hospital CIO explaining why they’re driving healthcare costs down by lowering the number of duplicate tests that are done because they already have the data they need thanks to interoperable healthcare data. I’d hate for a hospital CEO to have to explain why they’ve reduced hospital readmissions because they shared the hospital data with a patient’s primary care doctor.

Maybe implementing interoperability in healthcare isn’t such a brave thing after all. In fact, it’s a brave thing for us not to be sharing data. Why aren’t we holding our healthcare institutions accountable for not sharing data that could save lives, lower costs, and improve healthcare? Why are we ok with non-profit institutions worrying more about profit than the real stakeholders their suppose to be serving? Are we really so far gone that healthcare organizations can’t do something so obvious: sharing healthcare data?

Think of all the other major healthcare initiatives that would benefit from being able to share healthcare data where it’s needed. Meaningful Use, Obamacare (Affordable Care Act if you prefer), Clinical and Business Intelligence, Mobile Health, ACO’s, population health, etc could all benefit from healthcare institutions that embraced interoperable healthcare data.

Who’s going to take the lead and start doing what we all know should be happening? It won’t happen by #HIMSS13, but over cocktails at HIMSS I hope some hospital CIOs, doctor groups, EHR vendors, and other medical providers come together to do what they know is the right thing to do as opposed to just talking about it.

The above blog post is my submission to the #HIMSS13 Blog Carnival.