Plug-and-play in action at the Center for Medical Interoperability

In 2013, the Gary and Mary West Foundation and the Gary and Mary West Health Institute helped found the Center for Medical Interoperability, a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating the seamless exchange of health information.

The center seeks to achieve this goal through the testing and certification of medical devices that are interoperable.

Michael Johns, MD, chairman of the board of the Center for Medical Interoperability, said the impetus for the group and its mission stemmed from observed successes of the cable industry.

The cable industry, Dr. Johns says, early on harnessed the power of creating common standards which all cable companies could use while still remaining competitive. These standards led the industry to transmit Internet across those shared cable lines.

“We looked at that and said, ‘That’s a good model,'” Dr. Johns says. This model became the framework for the center’s laboratory to certify and test devices that achieve the desired result.

Dr. Johns and the rest of the founding members of the center seek to establish a laboratory to develop and test solutions fostering interoperability. According to the center’s website, the lab will mirror the healthcare environment in terms of physical space, equipment and information systems.

Currently, an interim lab focused on wireless testing is being developed, with plans for a 75,000-square-foot permanent site expected by the end of this year.

The end goal for the lab, and for interoperability in general, is the widespread access and use of plug-and-play interoperability, a task which Dr. Johns says lies more in the hands of health systems than maybe is realized.

“Ultimately the health systems have to buy these devices [and] agree to what they expect on the standards [we] should be meeting,” Dr. Johns says. “If [they agree on] what they’re looking to buy, the people looking to sell will start listening.”

via Becker’s Hospital Review »

Health Data Interoperability Needs Information Blocking to End

From federal government agencies and the medical industry to patient advocate groups and vendor-neutral companies, the push for greater health data interoperability with the healthcare market remains strong. As seen in the proposed rule for Stage 3 Meaningful Use Requirements, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) along with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) continue to stress the importance of health data interoperability.

ONC explains on its website that EHR systems will only reach their full promise when they effectively exchange medical data throughout the healthcare continuum. Health data interoperability through health IT systems and certified EHR technology will improve physician workflows and enable better health information exchange.

There are certain health IT interoperability standards that are necessary for improving data exchange and these cover how users interact with a system, the messaging capabilities of differing platforms between each other, the management of health data exchange, and the integration of consumer tools with relevant medical systems.

While the federal government knows the importance of health data interoperability and continues to stress its importance, there may be certain entities including healthcare providers and EHR vendors that have played a role in blocking information flow throughout the healthcare industry.

Entities within the medical sector have charged large interface fees when data access requests were made and Congress is now attempting to put an end to information blocking through these means.

“Providers are fed up with interface fees and at how hard it is to accomplish the workflow required by Accountable Care business models including care management and population health. They are unsatisfied with the kind of summaries we’re exchanging today which are often lengthy, missing clinical narrative and hard to incorporate/reconcile with existing records,” stated John D. Halamka, MD, MS, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in his latest blog post.

Halamka lays out a few key solutions for the problems surrounding health data interoperability and the ongoing issues of information blocking. First, it is important to define the necessities of care coordination and care management. Additionally, Halamka insisted that it’s time to put an end to the meaningful use requirements under the EHR Incentive Programs, explaining that they are no longer necessary.

A few other steps necessary for improving health data interoperability, according to Halamka, are: (1) creating a national provider directory in order to route messages, (2) developing a voluntary national identifier in healthcare, and (3) guiding state privacy laws to break down information blocking.

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) also recently provided recommendations for improving health data interoperability within health IT systems. The organization emphasized the need for EHR certification standards that offer more technical requirements for boosting EHR interoperability and secure medical information exchange.

Additionally, more healthcare providers would benefit from developing a comprehensive healthcare IT roadmap. The latest results from Frost & Sullivan show that approximately half of medical providers worldwide do not have an IT roadmap stressing EHR interoperability. By following the steps set forth among these medical groups, researchers, and experts, the healthcare industry may be able to significantly improve health data interoperability over the next several years.

Via EHR Intelligence