Interoperability, the cherished dream

Via Politico »

EXCHANGE OF VIEWS ON INTEROPERABILITY: CIOs who met at a Capitol Hill event Tuesday rejected comments by Allscripts CEO Paul Black suggesting that interoperability was just around the corner and that information blocking “has broadly been solved.” CHIME CEO Russ Branzell got the discussion going by asking panelists if they agreed.

“Not even close,” said Intermountain CIO Marc Probst, a former ONC adviser and never one to mince words. While some strides have been made by ONC and the private sector, “We have a long way to go to be truly, semantically interoperable, where data can be passed and not just PDF documents or automated faxes.”

Albert Oriol, CIO of Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, said his health system exchanged 500,000 records with others last quarter. Another 150,000 couldn’t be shared because they couldn’t correctly match records with the right patient, he said.

ONC head Vindell Washington also suggested that a culture of data sharing is a ways off. Providers and patients need to be able to expect information to be at their fingertips, he said — a far off goal. Health care providers need to incentivize information sharing, and standards need to be developed, he said.

Many of the doctors we’ve spoken to in recent weeks have given up on interoperability — at least in the lofty sense that HHS officials speak of it. They assume that the only way they can share data easily with another doctor is to belong to the same health care system — or at the very least share the same EHR. Some technologists agree, and think that EHRs are not the tools that will bring us free-flowing health information exchange.

Calling Apple….

Tweet of the Day: Brian Ahier @ahier Health insurers (finally) making use of #AppleWatch Looking forward to new #mHealth #apps for #wellness

Welcome to Wednesday eHealth, where we are too old to Twitch but still young enough to Zocdoc. Please send your reporting tips to, or tweet the most compelling and distracting rumors to @David_Pittman, @ arthurallen202, @DariusTahir @ POLITICOPro, @Morning_eHealth.

#AskVindell TWITTER CHAT: While Washington didn’t answer Branzell’s question about interoperability being “solved” during Tuesday’s event, he did say during a Twitter chat that “Information still does not flow as seamlessly as it needs to. That’s why we all need to work together to combat #datablocking.” Read a roundup of some of the key tweets in this post.

DIGITAL INSURANCE MOVEMENTS: Two pieces of business news point in a promising direction for health IT. First, HealthTap, which provides text, voice and video connections to doctors, announced Tuesday that health insurers are now covering its virtual consults. According to a news release, carriers such as United Healthcare, Cigna, Aetna and Humana will no longer require phoned permission to cover the visits; HealthTap will check patient eligibility in real-time, and the company also will submit electronic insurance claims on behalf of doctors to payors.

…. Aetna, meanwhile, announced that it will make Apple Watch available to some of its large employers and individual customers during open enrollment this fall, and will subsidize much of the cost, while allowing monthly payroll deductions to cover the rest. Aetna will provide Apple Watch for free to nearly 50,000 of its own employees as part of the company’s wellness program. Aetna is hoping that apps will help its customers improve their health and save it money. Apple Watch can help patients with medication adherence, wellness orientation, and decision support, according to a news release.

PDMP EXPANSION IN CALIFORNIA: Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law a bill that requires all prescribers to check the state’s PDMP before prescribing opioids or other controlled substances. About 20 other states have laws requiring some degree of PDMP monitoring for physicians. Shatterproof CEO Gary Mendell, who lost his son Brian to addiction in 2011, led the fight for the bill in Sacramento.

PULL UP TO THE BUMPER, BABY: Ride-sharing provider Uber will start to work with hospitals in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Delaware to provide rides to medical appointments. Uber announced Tuesday it would partner with Circulation for the non-emergency medical transports. Because hospitals and health plans demand certain credentialing to get paid for lifts to doctors’ offices and hospitals, Uber needs a way to meet those higher standards, and Circulation provides it. Medicaid agencies spend $3 billion on non-emergency medical transportation, Uber says — and a third of the payments are inappropriate.

EVIDENCE TELEMEDICINE SAVES MONEY: Partners Healthcare has been using telemedicine to treat heart failure patients for some time and has data to show it has saved the sprawling Boston health system money — including for Medicare patients. At the CHIME event we mentioned above, CIO Cara Babachicos cited company data showing that remote monitoring of recently discharged heart patients has cut what Partners spends on Medicare patients by nearly 2 percent. It also reduced 30-day readmissions by 75 percent and 120-day readmissions in half. Congress has been working for years to boost Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine, but the Congressional Budget Office has said more remote doctoring will only increase federal spending on health.

EVERYBODY’S SHOOTING FOR THE MOON: The Patent and Trademark Office, which on Thursday announced the winners of its Cancer Moonshot Challenge, aims to leverage intellectual property data to illuminate new directions in research on cancer. First place was won by Dolcera, which makes rather “engaging visualizations” that offer insights on cancer research priorities. Second place went to Booz Allen Hamilton and Omnity, which built visual networks based on linguistic similarity among cancer patents and NIH-funded research. These findings, per the USPTO, will empower research funders of all stripes to point their money in the most promising directions. Get your details here.

KIBBLES ‘N BITS: The National Quality Forum’s Measure Applications Partnership brought on Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, and Columbia psychiatrist Harold Pincus to co-chair a committee recommending the best measures to be used in federal programs that pay doctors. … Congress still hasn’t ponied up money to fight Zika, but University of Arizona researchers (who’ve been working with the CDC) launched a crowd-sourcing mobile app, called Kidenga, Tuesday to help detect outbreaks. … A VA inspector-general investigation showed that providers in the New Mexico VA Health Care System did not always respond to EHR alerts regarding irregular colonoscopies in a timely way — and as a result nine patients eventually diagnosed with colorectal cancer got their results late enough to potentially affect their clinical outcomes in 2013 and 2014.

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