HIMSS CEO Stephen Lieber: Interoperability of health data requires a culture change

The acceleration of interoperability of electronic health data hinges less on changes to technology and more on payment and cultural changes in the industry, according to HIMSS President and CEO H. Stephen Lieber.

As long as providers continue to benefit financially on a per visit basis, he told MedCity News in a recent interview, the incentive to share such information won't be very high.

"As much as we've tried for a dozen or more years to say that interoperability is critical for reduced errors and increased patient safety, it hasn't become such a compelling case that the healthcare profession recognizes it," Lieber said. "There is no financial disincentive or penalty--in fact there is an incentive not to be interoperable, because if I can't get data about you, I repeat the test. I re-do things, and I get paid for it."

What's more, he said, providers continue to practice medicine as if they own the data of their patients, primarily for competitive reasons. "Publicly, almost no one will say that data belongs to institutions, but they act that way," Lieber said.

While the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week unveiled their strategy to accelerate such interoperability, some believe that true interoperability cannot be realized without strong national standards in place.

According to a whitepaper published in May by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, however, the healthcare industry is on the verge of a breakthrough in interoperability."

To learn more:
- read the full MedCity News interview

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