HIMSS' Joyce Sensmeier: 'We are all stakeholders in advancing interoperability'

For true interoperability to occur in the healthcare industry, stakeholders must recognize the barriers, according to Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of Informatics for HIMSS.

Sensmeier, in a commentary for InformationWeek Healthcare, said the industry, as a whole, must "take charge of identifying potential solutions" to overcome such hurdles.

"This collaborative industry-wide approach will go far to minimize roadblocks, by adopting and implementing standards that advance widespread interoperability," Sensmeier said.

Sensmeier's comments echo what the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's 10-year interoperability plan hopes to achieve--a continuous learning environment for care where everyone has a voice.

"Interoperability ... is so complex," National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said at the Patient Privacy Rights Summit in the District of Columbia just prior to the release of the vision paper for the plan. "It requires all of us to have some shared responsibility thinking through how we're going to get there in a way that meets everyone's needs and expectations."

A white paper published by HIMSS this month on interoperability makes many of those same points, as well. In the paper, HIMSS says tasks to get to full interoperability will require consensus building within the industry and creation of new policies, laws and ideas.

One area in particular where Sensmeier said she thinks such collaboration will have an impact is mobile healthcare. For mobile, she said, there needs to be flexible and easily implementable interoperability standards. In addition, industry leaders must make sure that there are privacy and security safeguards.

"We are all stakeholders in advancing interoperability in healthcare, and the time is now to start working together toward that desired end state," Sensmeier said.

At the August Health IT Policy Committee meeting, federal advisers expressed concern for ONC's vision. In particular, Committee member Marc Probst, CIO at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, said the agency is trying to do too much.

"It seems to me that things like empowering individuals or maintaining modularity or focusing on value--those are how we would use interoperability, if we had it," Probst said. "If we could focus first on getting interoperability, I don't know that we have to burden this roadmap with empowering individuals."

To learn more:
- here's Sensmeier's InformationWeek post
- read the HIMSS white paper (.pdf)