No one tries to regulate McDonald's for not serving a Whopper. No one tells Sony that Nintendo Wii U remotes need to work on the PlayStation 4, but that is because food and video games are not normally matters of life, death, health and happiness (well too much Micky-D's and PS4 probably isn't the best thing for a healthy lifestyle, but that's not my battle today). In healthcare IT, where the stakes are much higher, the federal government is mandating that all of the electronic health record (EHR) vendors get into the same sandbox and play nice so that information extracted from their customers' databases will be able to flow bidirectionally. This is called interoperability.
For years, there has been an abundance of innovation and prosperity in the EHR market thanks to incentives and the threat of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement reductions. Doctors' offices and hospital networks have been rewarded close to 30 billion dollars over the past 4 years for their commitment to implementing and reporting adopted functionality with this software in the Meaningful Use program. Now, the incentives are beginning to dry up as the requirements get harder, leading many eligible professionals to seriously weigh the cost of compliance against the cost of the penalties for not meeting the programs objectives. On top of all of this, some of the EHR companies are not exactly thrilled that they have to invest development dollars into their technology to take their software in the direction of interoperability. Despite the odds, interoperability is still poised for great success to improve clinical outcomes.
Three ways interoperability is going to improve clinical outcomes
1. Patients will be able to avoid unnecessary duplication of tests, procedures, and recitation of common clinical information.
2. It will be easier for the entire care team to coordinate treatments for a common patient.
3. Reporting on deidentified information from fluid sources of data will become the norm to investigate population health issues.
Everybody wins with interoperability
It won't take much googling to find out that most thought leaders in healthcare IT identify interoperability as one of, if not the most, pressing problem to solve in the industry. Patients, doctors, hospitals, and any other associated businesses can all easily latch on to a point on how interoperability is going to improve something on their bottom line. The foundations of an interoperable future have been laid, it is just a matter or continuing to develop the connections, and businesses like Healthjump are the key to ensuring that the current course is held true.
How long is this going to take?
I certainly can't put a firm date on the time when every system will be connected and a medical record is going to be electronically available to a doctor's office or hospital before the patient even knows where they are going. Some influential voices point to 2020-2024 as the time when all of these ducks will get into a row. Even with all of the focus and pressure for everyone to collaborate to achieve this goal, that might be too ambitious of a date. I say this knowing how hard it is to enact change in technology and workflow at large and small medical practices. Changes just don't happen that quickly in healthcare, but at least the scales are beginning to tip in the right direction.