Fol­low feds’ call to ac­tion on in­ter­op­er­abil­ity

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Ni­cholas J. Va­le­ri­ani Ni­cholas J. Va­le­ri­ani is CEO of the West Health In­sti­tute, an in­de­pen­dent, not-for-profit re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion based in San Diego.

Just over 10 years ago, Ap­ple made a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion that would have an ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pact on its fu­ture. At a time when the com­pany had only 3% of the com­puter mar­ket­share, two ex­ec­u­tives de­fied Steve Jobs to make iTunes com­pat­i­ble with the Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tem. Mak­ing iTunes in­ter­op­er­a­ble with the sys­tem used by the other 97% of com­puter own­ers sub­se­quently rev­o­lu­tion­ized the record­ing in­dus­try and the way we ex­pe­ri­ence mu­sic.

If the au­dac­ity of two in­di­vid­u­als trans­formed the way we en­joy mu­sic, imag­ine what health­care would look like if it could har­ness that same drive for in­ter­op­er­abil­ity, build­ing sys­tems that al­low for easy shar­ing of health and med­i­cal in­for- ma­tion. In June, the Of­fice of the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor for Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy called on oth­ers to join it in de­vel­op­ing a de­fined roadmap to col­lec­tively achieve health IT in­ter­op­er­abil­ity as a core foun­da­tional el­e­ment of bet­ter care at a lower cost for all.

We’re all in. Since 2009, the West Health In­sti­tute has been work­ing to make high-qual­ity health­care more ac­ces­si­ble and to im­prove the abil­ity of med­i­cal de­vices to share data. This work is crit­i­cal to trans­form­ing our health­care sys­tem.

In in­ten­sive-care units to­day, there can be up to 10 med­i­cal de­vices mon­i­tor­ing a pa­tient’s vi­tal signs. But be­cause these de­vices can’t speak to one another, they can’t seam­lessly share in­for­ma­tion. This re­sults in in­creased pa­tient risk and clin­i­cal in­ef­fi­cien­cies, be­cause clin­i­cians must man­u­ally en­ter large amounts of data into elec­tronic health records. It also leads to med­i­cal er­rors, which can put pa­tients’ lives at risk. Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute of Medi- cine, more than $130 bil­lion is wasted an­nu­ally through in­ef­fi­ciently de­liv­ered ser­vices, in­clud­ing mis­takes and pre­ventable com­pli­ca­tions that de­vice in­ter­op­er­abil­ity could ad­dress.

We should all be chal­lenged by the ONC’s call to ac­tion to en­able our health­care sys­tem to pro­vide the same in­te­grated 24/7 ser­vice as the bank­ing, re­tail and cel­lu­lar in­dus­tries. We should be en­cour­aged by re­cent bi­par­ti­san ac­tions on in­ter­op­er­abil­ity from the House En­ergy & Com­merce Com­mit­tee and the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. Fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments and the pri­vate sec­tor need to work side-by-side to achieve this vi­sion. To­gether, we can have the au­dac­ity to cre­ate a smart health­care sys­tem that will help peo­ple live health­ier and make our na­tion eco­nom­i­cally stronger.

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