Interoperability is HOT. ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap is ambitious. Organizations like CommonWell Health Alliance and the Center for Medical Interoperability, an offshoot of the San Diego-based West Health/Gary and Mary West Health Foundation are doing great niche work through facilitating industry collaboration to advance common methodologies and standards. And the most recent addition, an industry interoperability survey lead by KLAS (Source: Health Data Management, February 5). But standards are elusive. On the standards front, there’s the Argonaut Project which leverages HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (F.H.I.R.), the Sequoia Project and its Carequality Interoperability Framework. While all of these programs have made significant contributions, they are currently in their early or pilot phases.
In a recent interview in Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review, “Why Interoperability Still Eludes Healthcare: Q&A with Dr. Charles Jaffe CEO of HL7,” one of the world’s foremost experts on interoperability and an originator of F.H.I.R. offered his insights on the state interoperability: “I think interoperability is the key. There are many different definitions of interoperability, though — semantic interoperability, which the technophiles like to throw around, or business interoperability, workflow, utilization, and so forth,” said Jaffe.
“The ultimate question is “interoperable for whom?” If you have a business case to share data between the lab, the electronic order entry, the billing entity, patient care providers and tax systems, it is one level of requirement. But to share it outside of your entity requires either a unified system or one-off mapping of resource to resource.” On standards, Jaffe concluded saying “I spoke at a FHIR for the U.K. in November and they were very interested in the technology as a means to solve those policy problems. FHIR doesn’t require some of the business models other software solutions do, so when you identify a need, getting to interoperability is far easier with FHIR… which has driven a level of cooperation and collaboration [between EHR vendors] that frankly we’ve never seen.”
Open for business – ConCert by HIMSS
Unlike the other programs and initiatives, though, ConCert by HIMSS, an interoperability certification program for vendors run by HIMSS in partnership with IHE, Verizon’s ICSA Labs and Stella Technology is fully operational and has already issued certifications of interoperability. ConCert is the only comprehensive, vendor-independent interoperability testing and certification program in the industry – and one that is certifying vendors currently (F.H.I.R. is conservatively still 2 years out). ConCert recently completed its pilot phase, with eleven (11) initial vendors participating in the program, and four (4) of those receiving certification.
“These companies have completed a rigorous testing program – the first certification program based on interoperability – to ensure their systems can communicate and enable data exchange in a way that ensures the right person has access to the right data at the right time,” said Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, Vice President, Informatics, HIMSS North America. “With this program, providers, consumers and patients will have access to critical information that will empower the best point-of-care decisions.”
“Interoperability certification creates clarity and direction for electronic health record (EHR) and health information exchange (HIE) vendors in the market,” said George Japak, Managing Director, ICSA Labs. “Healthcare providers that recognize the value of delivering better, more integrated care, will look for certified solutions to integrate with their IT systems.” (Source: HIMSS.org).
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