Interoperability Helps—But is it Enough?

by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on Mar 7, 2016

During a keynote address during the HIMMS 2016 Conference and Exhibition, HHS
Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced a broad industry initiative to improve health data interoperability, information sharing and patient engagement. Heavy hitters that have taken the pledge include HHS, Epic and Cerner.

“These commitments are a major step forward in our efforts to support a health-careehr.jpg system that is better, smarter and results in healthier people,” Burwell said.  “Technology isn’t just one leg of our strategy to build a better health-care system for our nation – it supports the entire effort.”

To achieve this, 90 percent of the EHR industry in the U.S. has agreed to implement three principles. These include:

  • Reduce information blocking
  • Increase patient access to health data
  • Embrace national interoperability standards

To those of us in the health-care industry, this is big news—but is it going to be enough?

In a lot of ways, this is just another vague commitment to work together. That said, these same groups have made these commitments before. So I’m not sure that there are real benefits behind the words of collaboration. After all, each of these organizations (maybe with the exception of HHS) is working to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

That said, kudos to the industry for making the pledge to make health data more usable, but let's not stop at EHR interoperability—there’s a lot more work to be done. Rather than simply making the data soup bigger, we have to focus on making it more intuitive and actionable for patients and providers.

I said in a previous blog post that interoperability will certainly make sharing information easier, but I still don’t think it will solve all of our problems. I still firmly believe that we need to focus on the patient as a whole—and that means combining clinical and socioeconomic data to provide better care.

Meet the Author

Kyle Salem earned his doctorate in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve University and has completed the Kellogg Management Institute at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Kyle worked for Siemens Medical Solutions MRI Research & Development division, serving as the primary scientist supporting its second 3 Tesla MRI scanner in the U.S. He also managed U.S. R&D Collaborations for MRI for two years. In 2005, Kyle joined Cassling Diagnostic Imaging, where he held a number of roles from strategic sales executive through vice president of Corporate Strategy and Development. It was during this time that he learned about the considerable challenges of managing health care, and was able to focus on how industry could strengthen community health care by lowering cost and increasing quality and efficiency. Kyle is passionate about the future model of care coordination, payment reform and new technologies in health-care delivery.