Does Healthcare Need a More Modern Way to Define and Measure EHR Interoperability?

Diana Manos | Healthcare IT News | August 18, 2016

For meaningful use and MACRA, the government uses an IEEE description of interoperability that pre-dates today's crop of EHRs. Whether that will carry the healthcare industry into the future, or not, is a matter of some debate.

Industry experts and the federal government are divided on the best way to assess the state of the nation’s health IT interoperability. The Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT, for instance, has proposed using CIO surveys to gauge the status of interoperability among and between healthcare organizations. To that end, ONC posted a Request for Information (RFI) on how to best assess interoperability that closed last month — just not before drawing some sharp comments from across the industry.

In his response to the RFI, Gary Dickinson, director of healthcare standards at CentriHealth, said the CIO surveys won’t give a true picture of interoperability. Dickinson, who is also co-chair of HL7’s EHR workgroup, suggested that ONC let the software tell the story, instead. EHRs aren’t currently programmed to audit how well data is transferred between EHRs or what takes place in that process. Precision medicine: Analytics, data science and EHRs in the new age

Dickinson speculated that health IT vendors aren’t likely to want to include this type of programming in their products, either, because it will shine a light on where interoperability is falling short. Another problem Dickinson pointed to is that the MACRA definition of interoperability is based on an aging IEEE statement from 1990 “and that definition was never intended to describe the interoperability of health data records nor interoperation of EHR or HIT systems”...