Why Participation is Key to Promoting Interoperability

In today’s marketplace, interoperability is a core characteristic of Electronic Health Record (EHR) platforms.

It’s not a unique trend or an EHR convenience for hospitals seeking to optimize care and operations. As we move to embrace value-based models, full participation in interoperability is a necessity for healthcare organizations and vendors across the country.

A Brief Interoperability Timeline

When the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) was introduced in 2009, one of its core promises was that it would improve coordination across the care continuum, allowing for population health management and easing the shift to value-based care.

Patients are often treated and cared for in numerous care settings. To achieve optimal care, both care takers and patients need easy access to healthcare data. They also need to work together to create and execute on a comprehensive care plan. However, to achieve this coordination, they need Interoperability.

Previous to the HITECH Act, EHR adoption—transitioning from paper-based to digital medical record systems—was slow moving. However, from 2008 to 2015 the incentives provided by the HITECH Act seemed to be the catalyst the industry needed to push wide-spread adoption. This tectonic shift led to the growth of HIE (Health Information Exchange) organizations. However, the spike also revealed deficits in long-term sustainability for HIEs and other attempts at expanding interoperable healthcare networks.

In the subsequent years, through the combined efforts of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) and other healthcare organizations and facilities; a system of standards, services, and supporting entities arose. As a result, the CommonWell Health Alliance, a non-profit trade association made up of healthcare and health IT stakeholders working together to solve for nationwide interoperability, was established.

MEDHOST and CommonWell

Overcoming healthcare interoperability challenges will rely on the types of networks built and maintained by organizations like CommonWell. Solving for interoperability requires people to work together and promote change from within the industry.

In order to better work together across industries, we partnered with CommonWell to help promote our shared vision of a bright future for healthcare in America through widespread interoperability. Along with other partners in the alliance, we recognize that one of the best ways to achieve our shared vision is through collaboration and partnerships.

It is an exciting time in healthcare. Competing organizations are joining to discover new and effective ways to improve the quality of care delivery and outcomes. Building on this momentum will be key to everyone’s success.

The Essence of Interoperability

In our partnership with the CommonWell Health Alliance, and to do our part in helping advance nationwide interoperability, we are emphasizing the importance of security and transparency in data exchanges. To achieve this goal, we will also operate under similar guiding principles as set forth by TEFCA.

TEFCA (Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement) has outlined six suggested guidelines that will serve as the cornerstones for interoperability within this framework. While not the end all to achieving interoperability, these principles are meant to help the industry as a whole in their efforts to jointly adopt and adapt to interoperability.

The 6 Guiding Principles of TEFCA  

  1. Standardization: Adhere to industry and federally recognized standards, policies, best practices, and procedures.
  2. Transparency: Conduct all exchanges openly and transparently.
  3. Non-discrimination and cooperation: Collaborate with stakeholders across the continuum of care to exchange Electronic Health Information, even when a stakeholder may be a business competitor.
  4. Privacy, security and patient safety: Exchange Electronic Health Information securely and in a manner that promotes patient safety and ensures data integrity.
  5. Access: Ensure that Individuals and their authorized caregivers have easy access to their Electronic Health Information.
  6. Data driven accountability: Exchange multiple records for a cohort of patients at once to enable identification and data trends, lower the cost of care and, improve population health.

Participation: A Seventh Principle to Achieving Industry-Wide Interoperability

Making interoperability a nationwide standard that continuously evolves must begin with an equal shift in industry perspective. Rather than treating interoperability as a set of rules, it should be approached as a joint community effort for the benefit of those working in healthcare and the people they serve.

While the TEFCA guidelines offer bright shining beacons for achieving industry-wide interoperability, MEDHOST believes in an important seventh principle—a principle that starts with YOU.

This seventh principle holds that participation is a key element to achieving interoperability. As seen in the short interoperability timeline, we would not be where we are now without the buy-in of healthcare entities at all levels.

Interoperability is not a challenge for the government or individual facilties to solve for on their own. It will take many individual facilities striving for the same shared vision. The healthcare industry must move beyond a pure focus on the systems, networks, and devices doing the heavy lifting and come together as mutually invested individuals.

As healthcare leaders we need to seek out partnerships and encourage people within the healthcare industry to collaborate. Similar to our partnership with CommonWell Health Alliance, we ask that other organizations dedicated to improving care on a national level join the movement. Across the healthcare marketplace, participation and unity will go a long way in solving the promise of interoperability.

Join the conversation with us at HIMSS! Stop by the MEDHOST booth to speak with our interoperability specialist, Director of Interoperability and Product Strategy, Brian Laskaris. Find out how we can all partner together for a better future.

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