Guest Blog from the 2012 ONC Annual Conference: Broadening the Nature of Health Care Interoperability

Justin Barnes | December 12, 2012

Stage 2 Exchange Milestones Not Limited to System Infrastructures

As the headlines surrounding Meaningful Use Stage 2 focus on specific interoperability tied to summary of care, information exchange in many forms is really the broader theme as Meaningful Use helps drive care coordination.

As Meaningful Use Stage 2 nears, it’s time to nurture caregivers beyond the historical focus of health care interoperability as a jargon-heavy, system-to-system infrastructure. We need to look at interoperability not as a technical challenge, but as a multi-faceted approach to coordinating care and advancing value-based medicine.

For example,  we need to think about health care interoperability as provider to provider, provider to patient, provider to device, provider to health information exchanges (HIEs), as well as registries and public health agencies, all tied to integrated electronic health records (EHRs) and health IT platforms.

I think that will be one of the inspiring themes to come out of the ONC Annual Meeting (#ONC2012) and the Health Information Exchange and Interoperability: Sharing Information to Improve Patient Care panel of health IT leaders, which I am honored to be a part of Wednesday. (The meeting will also be  available by webcast.)

In terms of provider to patient, Stage 2 alone includes four patient engagement measures that call for the ability to exchange information. That’s health care interoperability with a human face. Taken a step further, if a provider is also part of a CMS Shared Savings program, patient satisfaction scoring—and therefore engagement—also becomes a measure of information exchange and a successful business goal with today’s patient-consumers.

Each of these facets of health care interoperability—menu items exchanging data with cancer registries, for example—is a technology tied to standards. This creates  a universal language and a longitudinal patient record, one that encompasses mobile technologies, which are scalable, flexible, and customizable platforms that can expand throughout a care community.

As EHR-driven solutions establish the ability to exchange on all levels, caregivers can take the foundations achieved through Meaningful Use and apply them to the best fit for their practice, be it a patient-centered medical home, CMS Accountable Care Organization, private payer, or hybrid payment and delivery model.

Health care interoperability is not the age-old debate between nature versus nurture. For true care coordination, it is both.

Justin Barnes is a vice president at Greenway Medical Technologies, chairman emeritus of the Electronic Health Record Association and co-chair of the national Accountable Care Community of Practice. Barnes is also part of the Health Information Exchange and Interoperability:  Sharing Information to Improve Patient Care panel at the 2012 ONC Annual Meeting.