Healthcare IT Interoperability, EHR interoperability, Hospital Interoperability

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Future of Population Health Hinges on True Interoperability

A big data panel at the Value-Based Care Summit agreed on the importance of semantic interoperability to the future of population health management.

- Proponents of value-based care recognize the importance of analyzing data from multiple sources in order to effect positive patient outcomes. However, bringing that data together is easier said than done.

True interoperability needed for effective population health management

Panelists at Xtelligent Media’s Value-Based Care Summit agreed that big data analytics hold the key to effective population health management programs.

“That technology has transformed many industries, and it is inevitable that it will transform healthcare and population health or value-based care is certainly going to be the place where it’s going to have the most impact,” said Bharat R Rao, PhD, of Data & Analytics for Healthcare & Life Sciences at KPMG.

However, a lack of true interoperability stands in the way of the healthcare industry making of the most of this technology despite limited progress and growing focus on that subject. “We’re moving — there’s no question. But it’s still a ways to go and I don’t expect it to happen in the next few years,” added Rhao.

The reason being the need to use a variety of data to be effective at value-based care, emphasized Atrius Health’s Chief Medical Officer Joe Kimura, MD, MPH:

Yes, you absolutely need structured and unstructured electronic health record data. It’s a minimum. In the value-based environment, you’re going to use financial claims, administrative data. Again, it’s a minimum standard. You need to be able to wrap that together to see what’s happening. But on top of that, you do need patient-reported outcome information; you need information from devices, the internet of things generating real-time information coming in that allows you again to pick up signals upstream and allows a delivery system like ours to say, “What can I do here to prevent something that’s going to happen tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, six months from now — along those lines?”

The Atrius CMO didn’t mince words when describing the downstream effects of limited health IT interoperability. “The fact that we don’t have true semantic interoperability with the data that we use creates havoc of our ability to really integrate together,” he said.

Fellow panelist Danyal Ibrahim, MD, MPH, explained how health IT fragmentation came to be. The Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center attributed today’s lack of true interoperability to a lack of foresight among policymakers and IT developers.

“The predominance of EMR vendors thought the EMR was going to be it — it’s going to be the center of the universe, so to speak,” he claimed. “All of us know now, that’s not really true. And then the population health space [became] really strong and everybody thought population health is really going to be the center of the universe, the driver to unite.”

According to Ibrahim, the solution is an “enterprise orientation,” the recognition of the need for a health IT superstructure to unite the disparate data sources required for successful value-based care initiatives. He pointed to a growing willingness among health IT developers as a positive sign of good things to come. “Now we are seeing large, strong EMR names in the market saying, ‘We’re going to play,’ and the government is putting a lot of weight on that,” he noted.

Kimura echoed those remarks and added the need for all stakeholders to keep an eye on the same target.

“I do think it’s technically feasible,” he maintained. “I do think it’s a lot of political will and it’s a lot of people needing to shift their frame a little bit away from competing on the data and more competing on what they can do with the data.”

While the three panelists disagreed as to the amount of time it will take to achieve true interoperability, they certainly agreed that it holds the key to the potential for new and emerging value-based care models and population health strategies to counteract a history of increasing care costs and marginal improvements in patient outcomes.


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