In our last issue, readers identified HIE/interoperability as the third most pressing health IT trend for 2016. Guest writer, Dr. Donald Voltz, noted the current lack of interoperability adversely impacts patient care and leads to unintended clinical consequences. Voltz further notes that, despite pressure from the AMA and AAFP, little resolution has been obtained and, “The future of interoperability will not be solved with new policies either in Washington or within the EHR market. There is simply not enough incentive to do so.”
The interoperability issue was omnipresent at the Healthcare IT Transformation Assembly I attended last October in Miami. The event, put on by The Millennium Alliance, was two days of peer-led, high-level discussions of some of the most pressing technology issues impacting the healthcare IT sector today. I had the privilege of moderating three sessions and attending nearly a dozen workshops and, no matter the designated topic, interoperability — more specifically, the lack of it — was at some point introduced to the conversation.
Among the many criticisms of the current state of interoperability was that the potential value of EHRs will never be fully met. As a result, EHRs will only provide value in the setting where they exist, not across the entire continuum of care. The same criticism was applied to Big Data, of which it was said we’ve done a good job of accumulating, and a terrible job of sharing, tangible analysis.
When asked what can be done to solve the interoperability conundrum, many in attendance suggested streamlining EHRs, utilizing scribes, adopting fewer or more regulations, and instituting more organizations similar to the CommonWell Health Alliance aimed at defining and promoting a national infrastructure with common standards and policies. There was nothing truly earth-shattering here, but when I asked who was going to ultimately fix the lack of interoperability — providers, vendors, or a combination of the two — I was surprised to hear a majority of people respond, “Consumers.”
Consumer-driven change has taken, or is taking place, in almost every other industry. In retail, for instance, 2015 marked the first year more online Black Friday shopping traffic came from mobile devices than from desktops — a change driven by consumer demand for more shopping convenience.
Today in healthcare, consumers are demanding the information they want, when they want it, and delivered through the devices they use. According to many at the Healthcare IT Transformation Assembly, this consumer demand is what is going to force interoperability in healthcare to reach a tipping point.
Furthermore, many of these same healthcare executives predicted it will be one of these consumers, one who also happens to be an IT entrepreneur, who will design the platform that enables true interoperability. I must admit they made a compelling argument and forced me to reconsider how healthcare is going to finally achieve interoperability. Whether they are right remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt a change is coming, and the sooner it gets here the better for everyone.