West Health: 4 ways to 'ignite interoperability'

A new whitepaper released Monday by the San Diego-based West Health Institute provides a detailed summary of the group's Health Care Innovation Day, held last month in Washington, D.C.

In addition to outlining the day's events--which included a speech by National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo and news that medical device interoperability standards could be developed as early as April--West Health also listed several actions it believes are essential to "igniting an interoperable healthcare system." Here are four:

  1. Advocate for rapid change: "We must create a national imperative, an understanding that the lack of interoperability is a crisis," the whitepaper reads. This is how keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell framed his speech--stakeholders haven't acted because there is no sense of urgency for interoperability.
  2. Frame the interoperability problem correctly: Everyone is gathering and sharing data to best serve patients. 
    "We must demand a reliable way of sharing common sets of data across devices, across health systems, across continents," the whitepaper reads.
  3. Accelerate the full adoption of unambiguous, open standards for interoperability: As we heard in a chat featuring Jeffrey Shuren--director of FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health--and Doug Fridsma--chief science office & director of the Office of Science & Technology at ONC--draft interoperability standards for medical devices could be on their way as soon as April. It in the meantime, West Health maintains that "commonly adopted standards will support the move toward greater interoperability and reduce the costs. We must move to open source solutions rather than proprietary solutions."
  4. Ensure validity, privacy and security of data: FierceHealthIT previously reported that health data security efforts are too reactive. But a HIMSS survey from February finds that healthcare organizations continue to increase spending to secure electronic patient data, with physician practices boosting their efforts.

In an editorial published last fall, FierceHealthIT Editor-in-Chief Gienna Shaw wrote that medical device interoperability is an "intensive, mission-critical mess that the industry must address." 

An analysis by West Health last spring found that the healthcare industry could save roughly $30 billion if it fixes the interoperability problem, including $12 billion in savings when highly trained people provide care instead of transcribing data from one device or system to another.

To learn more:
- check out the whitepaper (.pdf)

Related Articles:
West Health's Joseph Smith: 'Patients are waiting' for interoperability
Feds: Draft med device interoperability standards could come this spring
Interoperability: A critical mess
Interoperability: Let's talk solutions
Karen DeSalvo: 5 necessities to reach interoperability
'Next chapter' of ONC's work to focus on population health management, DeSalvo says


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