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Healthcare interoperability is 'non-negotiable,' military says

Healthcare interoperability is high on many organizations' priority lists. Cerner Corporation and the Department of Defense (DoD) are not exempt.

"Interoperability, it's non-negotiable for us," Colonel Nicole Kerkenbush said. "We have to have that in order to provide the best care to our beneficiaries." Kerkenbush is military deputy program executive officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems within the DoD.

"We think fundamentally every person has the right to their information no matter where they are," Zane Burke, president at Cerner Corporation, said at the CHIME15 Fall CIO Forum in Orlando, Fla.

Burke detailed Cerner's efforts to make widespread healthcare interoperability a reality, including the company's involvement with CommonWell Health Alliance, a vendor-backed interoperability group.

"We now have 30-plus company corporate members that have joined CommonWell that represent over 70% of the acute EHR marketplace [that] has gotten together to create a set of standards to work together so that that information is available," Burke said. "We have about 1,200 Cerner providers that have signed up for CommonWell today."

We think fundamentally every person has the right to their information no matter where they are.
Zane Burkepresident, Cerner Corporation

Burke added that Cerner is also focused on the open aspect of healthcare interoperability, citing SMART on FHIR app development platform as an example.

"Systems ought to be able to take other applications and layer them into a platform and utilize that data and that platform in a way that makes everything interoperable in an easy fashion," Burke said. "So you're not doing point-to-point interfaces; you're literally in the workflow of the clinician."

And the DoD listed interoperability as a high priority when considering bids for the agency's EHR contract, Kerkenbush said. "We have a two-fold mission in our office: one is EHR modernization, and to that end we've acquired the Cerner product … which gets us in the game a different way than we have been in the past," Kerkenbush said. "Our second mission was the interoperability piece."

She added that the DoD is very interested in joining the dialogue surrounding interoperability standards. Although both Kerkenbush and Burke agree that more standards are needed, they do not believe the lack of standards is necessarily barring interoperability in healthcare from happening.

Let us know what you think about the story and healthcare interoperability; email Kristen Lee, news writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.

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