Lions and Tigers and Interop, oh my!


On my first day as one of the EMR Product Managers here at GE Healthcare I was told my responsibilities would be to manage the cross cutting functionality of ICD-10 and Interoperability across our Ambulatory EMR portfolio. Boy, I sure felt like I drew the short straw on that one!

At the time, not many folks in the industry were really worried or planning for ICD-10, other than placing bets on it getting delayed again. Everyone was focused on the big league buzz words (Patient Portal, Meaningful Use, Patient Centered Medical Home, etc.), and here I was, feeling sorry for myself for drawing two topics that I felt were tucked away in the shadows.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

You’ve likely already read my colleague Andrew Slotnick’s post regarding ICD-10, so rather than repeat anything he said, I thought I’d focus more on another bear of a buzz word: “Interoperability”

During my safari through the jungle that is Interoperability, I kept hearing people using the words: interface, integrate, and interoperate – interchangeably! And for the most part, I still do. While I don’t see any issue with the slight nuances between those terms, I think it’s high time we coin a new phrase: “Active Interoperability”!

Interfacing has been around for a while. For the most part, it was a point to point model where each side utilized some similar flavor of the HL7 language to share information. To me, integration was the next step, where you could discretely store that data in your system, and generally was a term applied to EMR to Device “integration”. Beyond Interfacing, when talking about bi-directionally sharing data between multiple systems, we see the phrase Interoperability being the primary buzzword.

But what if the movement of that data spurred additional action? What if it could actually shorten the amount of time I have to spend behind a keyboard and monitor? Let’s call this “Active Interop”. Less focused on just interfacing data, active interop takes more of the workflow into account. The data gets moved, based on established workflows, enabling user actions to occur as a result. In my opinion, Active Interop is driven by action. Let’s say I place an order for a referral, and pick Dr. Slotnick as the provider, the relevant clinical data that I would want him to know should be packaged up (HL7, XML, CDA, etc.), behind the scenes (allowing me to review it if I so choose), and transmitted to him via whatever method is necessary (Direct, XDS, XDR, , SOAP, etc.), and then, once he receives it, sees the patient, and has some relevant result to share with me, it should come back (alerting me if necessary to recall the patient), and store itself in the chart – discretely! Maybe it even updated a pre-existing task list, or created new tasks for my staff!

Right?  Who’s with me!? Lucky for us, Meaningful Use Stage 2 is promoting standards that will act as the backbone to this type of workflow. At the same time, here at GE Healthcare, we’re imagining and designing functionality to turn these hopes and wishes into a reality for our customers. We’ll all feel so much better about “interoperability” when all vendors can finally say “What do you want to do?” to our customers, instead of “Here is what you can do”

GE Healthcare is committed to advanced interoperability as well as open architecture. We’ve long been engaged in such U.S. and international standards organizations as HL7, DICOM, and IHE, recently joined the EHR Interop Workgroup, became certified in Delaware with the DHIN network, and are active collaborators with ONC, including the Direct Project, various S&I Framework projects, and  the Beacon Community Programs. We have also engaged with such industry organizations as the Bipartisan Policy Center, eHI, HIMSS, and the EHR Association in policy work promoting interoperability.

With this type of focus and commitment, I feel less like I have drawn the short straw and more like I am part of a company looking to drive more “active interoperability”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *