Much like reaching the summit of a mountain, achieving true interoperability for EHRs is both the greatest goal and the greatest challenge. The objective of the Meaningful Use initiative is to overcome those challenges and achieve those goals, but so far it has been plagued by setbacks, concessions, and missed targets.

Recent developments, however, suggest that significant steps are being taken to make interoperability a reality. The Office of the National Coordinator released an IT interoperability “roadmap” that caught the attention of everyone in the industry, and sparked optimism in many.

The roadmap is a 150+ page document that address many of the roadblocks to interoperability, namely governance, certification, privacy, security, and standards. It has already earned praised for tackling the core benefits and hazards surrounding interoperability in a frank, clear, and productive way.

It is not hard to notice that the roadmap was released at roughly the same time that the Meaningful Use initiative faced yet another setback. But rather than being met with cynicism, the roadmap has been embraced by stakeholders industry-wide as a bold step forward, rather than a hasty course correction.

To a certain extent, it is a matter of timing. Technological innovation is obviously essential if interoperability is going to become a reality, but for too long the effort was characterized by proprietary systems that were cumbersome and outdated. Instead of pioneering a bold new operating principle, the tools of the past were being reconfigured and repaired with little progress to show for it.

But now that value-based healthcare is an industry wide priority, a sea change is under way and older, entrenched ideas are finally being thrown jettisoned. Creating value fundamentally requires access to information, and EHRs are central to that mission. But without interoperability, their utility is severely compromised, sometimes creating more costs than benefits.

As exciting as this new roadmap is, there is obviously still a lot of work to be done. It offers a direction to head in moving forward, but there are a number of technical and logistical issues that remain unresolved. But, if anything, the recent frustrations caused by meaningful use have proved constructive rather than deflating. The industry understands better than ever how far they have to go, and how much their mission has been compromised by stale thinking.

When interoperability will become a reality is still anyone’s guess, but momentum seems to be building. Make sure you are on the cutting edge rather than scrambling to catch up by enhancing your health IT workforce now. Contact the team at MedPartners HIM to get the process started.


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