Healtheway interoperability initiative will push for standardized connectivity

Healtheway, the nonprofit public/private collaborative chartered to advance the nationwide implementation of interoperable health information exchange, has unveiled a new initiative to bring the industry together to provide a standardized framework for connectivity.

According to a Feb. 24 announcement unveiled at HIMSS14 in Orlando, Fla., the initiative, named Carequality, will "facilitate agreement on a common national-level set of requirements that will enable providers to access patient data from other groups as easily and securely as today's bank customers connect to disparate banks and user accounts on the ATM network."

Twenty-six organizations from across the spectrum--including Epic, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens and Intermountain Healthcare--have signed on as founding members. Another 16 entities have expressed support for the project.

"First we needed the technology in place," Michael Matthews, chair of the board of Healtheway, told FierceEMR exclusively. "Now that has largely occurred, the industry can embrace and move to interconnectivity."

The project will not create a super health information exchange or encourage use of a single platform, Mariann Yeager, Healtheway's executive director, told FierceEMR. Instead, she said, it will get the industry to agree how interconnectivity will work across different technology platforms.

"It's a federated approach," Yeager said.

Next steps will include holding a virtual town meeting and issuing a straw proposal regarding the governance of Carequality.

Data sharing is not only important to health care organizations; it's also increasingly important to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and Congress. ONC's Health IT Policy Committee's Meaningful Use workgroup noted earlier this month that interoperability was a "top priority" for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use incentive program. And bipartisan bills currently under consideration in Congress to repeal of the sustainable growth rate would require EHR interoperability by 2017.

"The time is right for this," Yeager said.

To learn more:
- read the announcement (.pdf)