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Making Interoperability a Utility: A Father's Legacy

Published on 3/26/2018

I often work late at night, after my four kids and wife are asleep and the activity level has slowed to comfortable quiet. It’s during this time that I regroup on the day and plan for the next. And it often becomes a time of reflection – both personally and professionally. 

Lately, that reflection has turned to the legacy I am leaving for my children. And not the legacy of money or fortune, but of quality of life. Improving upon what is good and making it even better for their generation. I am fortunate that my job allows to me to help impact at least one area of their future – improving providers and people’s access to health records so they can get the best care possible. 

I have worked in health care for nearly 20 years, with most of my time working on interoperability initiatives. Continuing my work from these past two decades, I am proud to be breaking down the silos of data exchange for the betterment of patient care – it is a passion of mine and always will be.  

I may work my way out of a job someday, but my personal goal is to make interoperability a utility for providers. Just a standard way of doing business, like using electricity and telephones. I want providers to not remember what it was like when they couldn’t access their patients’ records from other providers. 

Making data access effortless

What I mean by a utility is that accessing outside data should be nearly effortless on the part of the provider and the consumer. When systems intelligently deliver data to workflows without user action and when external data is automatically reconciled into a comprehensive view at the point of care – this will be proof that interoperability has become a true utility. The information is just there, exactly where it’s needed. 

Other examples of how interoperability will become a utility include, but are not limited to:

  • Access outside data from across the country to get a longitudinal view of patients’ health history.
  • Extract patient records while maintaining decision-making detail.
  • Transmit all or some of a record to another health system with a different EHR, or to a personal health record via a mobile device, without losing any of the data's structure.
  • Exchange requests for copies from external EHRs and return records in standard consumable format.
  • Move a current patient’s records to a new EHR, instantly.
  • Embed new or existing functionality within EHRs.

Empowering the individual in their health and care

Increasingly, consumers are taking a more active role in managing their own health and care. I believe – and I feel most in our industry would agree – that health care is ultimately about empowering the individual. Since shifts in consumer behavior have created a greater demand for digital resources and consumer-oriented apps that put the individual in control of their personal health journey, it should be a priority for every health care organization to incorporate interoperability solutions that allow them to connect with outside providers. 

These solutions should have the capability to connect to select organizations, specific geographies and providers nationwide, but all are working together to provide pertinent health data to providers and the people they serve. 

For example, CommonWell Health Alliance is a national trade organization devoted to making interoperability inherent throughout health IT (HIT), working with its members to realize this mission. Cerner recently committed to offering nationwide interoperability services at no cost to clients through 2020.

Our intent is not to make access to data a competitive strategy. It should be an expectation from any provider that this is just a standard part of their HIT solutions: Interoperability is a utility. Not a product or a solution – just a standard way of doing business.

Many public and private coalitions and proposals have been created to solve the interoperability challenge through groups like CommonWell Health Alliance, Carequality and the Argonaut Project. It’s amazing to see this commitment from leaders in the industry. 

All these examples have a place, but we all have the responsibility to keep moving forward with our shared goal of providing more information, coordinated health care and better outcomes. No innovation in health care matters if patients and doctors can’t access, understand and make the appropriate decision. Consideration of a patient’s management of care and behavior motivations, in addition to overall provider practice patterns and how to deliver beneficial information at the point of care, are additional motivating factors. We are all on the right track. 

Sometimes during the hustle and bustle of life, it is hard to stop and look back on all that has been accomplished. Health care is not the same it was 5, 10 or 15 years ago. There are always ways to improve the process and put the power in the patients’ hands. While there is still more work to be done, this push for nationwide interoperability is a legacy I am proud to be a part of. 

Learn more about how Cerner clients can take advantage of CommonWell services at no cost through 2020. To learn more about Cerner’s interoperability solutions, go here