People, processes and technology: Interoperability isn’t just about technology

I stumbled across an amusing headline a few weeks ago: “Interoperability: It’s not just ‘nerd talk’.” My first response was amusement, followed by “Well, of course it’s not.” The context? Kevin Fickenscher, MD, of AMC Health, told the AHIP Institute Data Analytics Forum that interoperability needs to move from “a nerd discussion” to a discussion across the entire health care community.

It’s starting to happen. 

Recently, the ONC released Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A 10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure, which describes the ONC’s broad vision and framework for interoperability. It rightfully identifies interoperability as “a core foundational element of better care, at a lower cost and better health for all.” Physicians must be able to receive information about their patients as they transition across care environments, and that information should seamlessly flow into their EHR systems. Moreover, as we all know by now, interoperability is a requirement for Stage 2 Meaningful Use. 

Lack of interoperability has hampered the potential of EHRs to enhance care delivery, particularly as patients move across the care continuum.

And that, my friends, is why Direct is so powerful. Direct provides a secure, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted personal health information directly to trusted recipients across the street and across the country–regardless of who has which EHR system. Connecting providers with certified EHR systems nationwide, Direct addresses real-world health care gaps, especially the lack of care coordination across care transitions.

That’s where MedAllies comes in. MedAllies has provided Direct services since the Direct Project’s inception. Today we run a leading national Direct network. Our service suite, MedAllies Direct Solutions™, builds on existing technology to achieve interoperability.

And that gets me back to the “nerd” issue. Interoperability can’t be viewed simply as a technology issue. It involves people. That’s why any effort to advance the direct exchange of information must be clinically relevant. It must enhance–not impair–provider efficiency.

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: If a clinician believes health IT enhancements will improve care and efficiency, interoperability will advance rapidly. If the providers don’t believe this, well, nothing much will happen.

The MedAllies approach enhances and optimizes the practice’s EHR workflow to process and integrate information exchanged during patient transitions of care. After all, our team includes doctors and health IT experts. Some of us are both. We understand how to work with physicians, physician organizations and health systems.  We know, first hand, that it’s essential for interoperability to align with physician workflow for delivery of high-quality, patient-centered health care.

I have great respect for nerds. Some of my best friends are nerds. But interoperability must not be seen as strictly a technology issue. It’s about people, and processes–and yes, technology. It’s about making meaningful use of technology to support better care, better health and lower costs.