The distant goal of interoperability
Private industry is starting to step up, but slowly. Mostashari pointed out that one such effort is the CommonWell Health Alliance, announced at HIMSS last week.
What he didn't say, but I will, is that the CommonWell announcement was mostly marketing spin and very little substance at this point.
In the words of two of its vendor founders, CommonWell "plans to build, certify, and deploy a national infrastructure which will create an ecosystem for universal connectivity providing patient record linking, along with standardized consent and authorization services, so that providers can gain access to needed patient data, regardless of their electronic health record [EHR] supplier or the setting of care."
Cynics pointed out that CommonWell looked a lot like the health IT industry minus one glaring exception: Epic. The market share leader in EHR software in the larger-than-200-bed market wasapparently not invited to join CommonWell. I've seen these kinds of theatrics in IT before, and question how sincerely Epic's competitors were pursuing a détente with the 800-pound IT gorilla.
But around the show floor, some hospital and health system executives confided that Epic will quietly implement some interoperability with other EHR systems, particularly for large customers, although that's apparently not something Epic wants to be highly publicized, and probably is aimed at continuing to assimilate that data into Epic somewhere down the line.
So it may be that Mostashari's exhortations and CommonWell's developmental goal won't be enough. Providers are the ones who can and must demand that health data exchange become ubiquitous. Those providers who fear the legal ramifications have to try to work within our existing litigious system to provide a level of comfort with letting go of data that is, after all, the patient's data.
And with the ongoing sequestration of funds from government programs hampering the ONC itself, vendors who until now have been prospering from government HIT incentives must turn to the hard work of getting that tech cart behind the horse, and keeping it there, by cooperating in ways they never imagined.