Interoperability

“In today’s healthcare environment, delivery of quality care requires access to pertinent clinical information at the point of care — the right information, at the right time, securely delivered to the right provider,” claims the MedAllies website. “The evolution of EHR systems gives connected providers access to comprehensive and powerful technology applications when and where they need them.”

Delivering system security and assuring patient privacy, no easy matter to begin with, has been complicated by the lack of interoperability between data sources. “EHRs become more sophisticated each year, but until recently, their potential has been locked in the Tower-of-Babel syndrome,” Blair explained last month. “Systems from different vendors speak different languages. Interoperability — a requirement of Meaningful Use — has been more theory than practice. Lack of interoperability puts patients at risk because crucial information may not be communicated when EHRs fail to ‘understand’ each other.”

The first phase of Meaningful Use (their capitalization) consisted of setting up a system of data capture and sharing in 2011 and 2012. The second stage, which is occurring this year, involves adoption of advanced clinical processes, very often through partnerships among healthcare organizations. The final stage, due two years from now, will be the payoff: improved outcomes, a cheaper and better system of health care.

Thanks in no small part to the consortium of organizations clustered around MedAllies, the Hudson Valley has become a nationwide leader in healthcare transformation. Interoperability is closer to realization here than in most other parts of the country.

“What would it take to increase interoperability?” asked Blair, posing a rhetorical question in testimony at a Washington, D.C. conference last year. “Make it clinically relevant and give providers the assurance it will increase efficiency. The technology must respect clinical workflow. At end of the day, it comes down to relevance to the providers. If the provider honestly believes these enhancements will improve care and efficiency — and particularly if they are indirectly tied to increased reimbursements for improved health care value — interoperability will advance rapidly. If the providers do not believe this, nothing else we do here will make much of a difference in the long run.”

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