The Nationwide Interoperability Plan

| Print |

Friday, 08 April 2016 20:08

In our previous articles about interoperability, you may remember the 10-year vision plan which the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) laid out in 2014. In October 2015, after soliciting public feedback, the ONC finally unveiled the first draft of the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, with the help of a federal, state and private advisory committee. This living and evolving document serves as the plan for nationwide healthcare interoperability needed to build a “Learning Health System.” This integrated health care system would:

Over the past few years, health care organizations have increased their adoption of electronic health record (EHR) technology and have begun connecting to regional and statewide healthcare information exchanges (HIEs). Some healthcare settings, such as ambulatory care and long-term-care, remain behind the large hospital systems and other early adopters. Overall, the number of organizations using healthcare IT and accessing patient data electronically has increased. In order for the vision of the interoperability roadmap to come to fruition, all stakeholders must commit to collaborating and advancing the goal of real-time data access, as well as to develop the interoperability standards to increase connectivity and information sharing.

Convergence and Connections:

In recent months, we have seen an emergence of public and private sectors working together, along with vendors and healthcare providers, to advance the vision of nationwide interoperability. For example, a public-private collaborative called Carequality, with representatives from private health systems, industry and government, has developed a framework of interoperability to enable cross-platform data sharing between vendors, providers and payers. Carequality is part of a larger group called the Sequoia Project that is working toward greater healthcare interoperability, but other groups also exist with similar goals, and these industry leaders continue to pave the way for nationwide interoperability.

Healthcare IT vendors have also begun to work together by forming information exchange alliance networks. CommonWell Health Alliance – a nonprofit trade association with the slogan “Health Alliance Interoperability for the Common Good – offers a platform for its service provider members to leverage existing standards and policies to improve the interoperability of health data exchange. Founding members include Athenahealth, Cerner and McKesson, and the group continues to add members, due to the growing appeal of the single platform and network. Organizations that adopt the interoperability framework can more easily share data and add partnerships, increasing their opportunity for overall connectivity.

A New Roadmap:

Based on the public feedback from the first draft of the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, the ONC has finalized a timeline for achieving its goals, which includes main drivers of the path, policy and technical components and eventual outcomes. Here is a quick overview of the timeline and goals, according to the ONC:

Within the roadmap version 1.0, some of the detailed requirements that must be met to achieve interoperability include the following:

A Vision of Future Interoperability:

All stakeholders – from healthcare service organizations to technology providers and state and local leadership -- must heed the calls to action and do their part in contributing to the nationwide interoperability plan. From enhancing our capability to exchange with one another, to increasing the volume and availability of exchanged information, providers can finally begin to use health data to make better decisions and improve outcomes. And with a feedback loop in place, stakeholders can continue to refine systems and processes to further improve interoperability.

History has shown that when vendors, providers and even regions develop systems independently, they can encounter problems when trying to integrate. At CoreTech, we can help our clients get on the path toward interoperability by starting small and navigating through each integration challenge individually, with a goal of becoming fully interoperable with other technologies, partners and processes.

Through a combined effort and commitment, the nation will continue to strive to attain a true learning health system, and can then enjoy the benefits of lower costs, better health and improved processes.