The interoperability of Healthcare IT

Michael Rose

I have been in the healthcare IT industry for many years (let’s just say that it’s been more than a quarter of a century but less than a half) and have attended more HIMSS meetings than I can count. In the last couple of years, I have been providing marketing support for GE Healthcare’s participation in the IHE Connectathon and the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase.

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the IHE Connectathon. Thinking back on my experience last week, I didn’t know what to expect the first day as I walked into the ballroom at the Cleveland Convention Center. Because I have never attended a Connectathon. I had built a preconceived notion in my mind of what to expect based on engineers and programmers I’ve had the privilege to work with over my career, on Dennis Nedry, the villainous programmer in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, and on commercials for the “Geek Squad”. I also built this notion based on a vague memory of one of my first exposures to interoperability where vendors were trying to demonstrate sending orders to the RIS (Radiology Information System) and receiving DICOM images back into the EMR. To be honest, it was mass chaos up until the demonstration time!

The reality is though, interoperability has come a long way since then. I’m also glad to report that the picture I had in my mind of a bunch of Nedry’s and geeks packed into a room full of wires, anxiety, food wrappers and empty energy drinks was completely off!

Instead, I was greeted by a large group of people heads-down preparing their solutions for the big day. There was no chaos, no food wrappers and no empty cans. I think one of the things that impressed me the most was seeing people from various vendors deeply collaborating with each other (including those that are normally very strong competitors in the world of sales).

Certainly, I spent a lot of my time with my GE Healthcare colleagues, but I also explored the room looking over the shoulders of engineers from other companies, who were very open to me asking them questions. Granted, much of what I was shown was deeply technical, but at a high level, I was very grateful to walk away with the openness and spirit of cooperation and collegiality. I even saw engineers from one company helping engineers from another company troubleshoot their software. As I said earlier, this is very different from what one typically sees on the commercial side – which was refreshing, especially as it relates to thinking about how best to deliver for customers.

Why is interoperability, the IHE Connectathon and the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase so important?
• Healthcare delivery organizations are now demanding interoperability
• Patients want access to their data without having to deal with multiple portals
• Data exchange is critical to care coordination, which requires a complete view of the patient and all the relevant information on the patient, regardless of where and how it was captured.
• Interoperability is a Federal Mandate – The 21st Century Cures Act – which will expedite the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments and cures includes sections that address interoperability, “information blocking” transparency and safety.

As I already mentioned, we’ve come a long way since my first exposure to interoperability and identifying success as being able to transmit and receive DICOM images. The industry is moving toward the holy grail of seamless interoperability and standardization (such as IHE Profiles) and FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources).

If you are going to HIMSS18 in Las Vegas, please make time to visit the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase. You will be able to see over 70 vendors and healthcare organizations collaborating to highlight the value their solutions provide in the world of interoperability to improve the quality and value of the care provided.

We look forward to seeing you in Vegas!

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