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Interoperability in healthcare to come with strong standards

When it comes to healthcare interoperability, Marc Probst, CIO at Intermountain Healthcare, is outspoken to say the least. And he thinks the standards in place now aren't enough.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Marc Probst, CIO at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CHIME chair-elect spoke to SearchHealthIT about interoperability standards at the CHIME15 Fall CIO Forum. He explained why certain standards aren't powerful enough to help providers truly achieve interoperability in healthcare, and what needs to be done to get there.

What are your thoughts on interoperability in healthcare? We have HL7 [Health Level Seven] and FHIR [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources] but do they go far enough? If not, then what needs to be done in order for them to be enough?

Marc Probst: HL7 is great, it's a standard. It's a data level standard so it has a lot of applicability to the type of interoperability that I believe in which is the ability to use this data in any system. FHIR is a little bit different from that in being open APIs or application program interfaces. They're both good steps. I don't think they're enough. I think there's still going to be too much flexibility within each of those that we're not going to reach the true benefits of interoperability which are patients, better healthcare, lower cost of care. They're good directionally, they're just too little from my perspective. I think we need a more direct and a more forceful legislative approach to get the standards in place.

In what specific areas do these standards need improvement? Within patient records or imaging?

Probst: I'm really interested in data that's computable and so I want standards that dictate what a piece of data means: the context of that data, the format of that data electronically so that when I move it from one computer system to another I know it will be computable and mean the same thing. That's the level of standards I'm looking for. HL7 gets close to defining that but there's still a lot of variability even within HL7 and not everyone uses it consistently. So this creates some of the variation and takes the value out of standards.

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

Next Steps

Learn more about interoperability in healthcare:

FHIR already being used by developers

Stronger patient data standards will lead to EHR interoperability

HIMSS 2015: CIOs call for interoperability

patients care affected by poor interoperability 

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