HIMSS 2012 Interoperability Showcase Participants Get a Surprise Challenge

Dr. Doug Fridsma | February 29, 2012

Last Thursday, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari made an impromptu visit to the ONC/FHA area of the HIMSS 2012 Interoperability Showcase. He gathered the participants and issued a surprise challenge: In the next hour, demonstrate interoperable health information exchange with another showcase participant whom you haven’t exchanged information with before.

For our non-technical readers, this was certainly a tall order for participants to undertake. The Interoperability Showcase participants have prepared for weeks to demonstrate interoperability with other organizations or sites. Farzad’s challenge to the participants to demonstrate exchange with someone new is one that in the past has required a tremendous amount of planning and preparation.

With some scrambling and hard work, the following organizations were able to successfully demonstrate interoperable health information exchange at HIMSS 2012 in just over an hour’s time.

  • NextGen successfully sent a C32 to Allscripts via MedAllies (the Health Information Service Provider)
  • EKCITA HIE of California and Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE) of Indiana successfully exchanged a standard transfer of care document in the ER discharge summary format. Alex Horowitz, CIO of EKCITA HIE, and Dave Juntgen of MIE, had never had any prior contact, organizational or technical.
  • The STEM Pilot Ecosystem member, Enable Healthcare (EHI), completed the exchange with Verizon. The Consolidated CDA (CCDA) Discharge Summary was successfully consumed by the EHI electronic health record  and a new patient chart was created. The CCDA was further sent to another STEM participant, SmartPHR, using the Direct Transport implemented by Techsant.

Each organization took the building blocks for vocabularies, content, and transport and demonstrated how they could put these building blocks together to solve the task that Farzad gave them. Rousing sleeping developers in different time zones, creating (on the fly) interoperable certificates for authentication, and safely opening up firewalls and data were only a few of the challenges that needed to be overcome to meet the one-hour deadline.

As we work with our partners to address these technical challenges and accelerate the pace of information exchange and interoperability, we look forward to a time when this type of exchange will be not just a special challenge on a special occasion, but the norm for getting information to those that need it most to improve health and health care.

I was very proud to tour the HIMSS 2012 Interoperability Showcase this year, seeing the many organizations that are working to improve patient care through interoperable health information exchange. I was struck by how many demonstrations were a true reflection of the variety of solutions that we think are critical to achieving interoperability as a nation. As I like to say, interoperability is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, and the Showcase represented that well.

True success will come when patients and providers no longer have to worry about whether their systems will be interoperable; instead, they will just be making sure that the right information is available at the right time, in the right place for the right person.

I’d like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all Interoperability Showcase participants, and extend my congratulations to those who were able to successfully meet Farzad’s unexpected challenge.

Stay tuned for more information on a follow-up “hack-a-thon” event that we’ll be planning for our next Standards & Interoperability Framework Face-to-Face meeting.