Posted by: Nirpath
Interoperability and health information exchange
Recently, I came across an article of a digital camera vendor, who was trying to solve the interoperability problem between the latest cameras with that of the older cameras. And, it was part of their marketing campaign to win some market share creating USP (Unique selling point).
Interoperability between the old system and new system is relatively easy and straightforward, due to just one stake holder and multiple system versions with the proprietary technology. When it comes to thousands of stake holders, then the interoperability factors is left to individual companies’ decision to co-operate, create some standard and following it through some enforcing body. The products thus created serve a larger market creating value for all stake holders with a simpler or smarter solution.
The standard creation process is the most crucial step for interoperability. When there is a market leader, it will champion the cause and interoperate with smaller players, who may not be perceived as a threat – and this is what exactly happened in our health care industry. With too many vendors providing service to specific areas of the problems, there was no clear market leader in this industry. But, when the quality suffers, they all have to unite and start following some standard – either set by industry body or government and here we are!
But ever wondered how this happens in other industries! Off-course it is not a rocket science! This did happen in other industries.
If we look at a laptop, we will see hundreds of small components work seamlessly to give a collective output of problem solving. There are interoperability programs or policies in place for the vendors to supply components as per the specification and every component of a laptop goes through an “interoperability program” or “compliance program” and the successful vendors are listed in something called “integrators list”. A vendor producing laptop as an end product acts as an integrator and while sourcing the parts, it has to buy the parts from a “certified” vendor from “integrators list”. Similar processes are in place in other industry as well. Usually, the industry association takes the call and manages the campaign. And in health care industry as well, we are taking the baby steps now.
In health care industry also, industry bodies such as IHE, HITSP are created to ensure that vendors follow the policies defined by the standards and policies defined by IHE, HITSP and produce the software component, which becomes automatically interoperable. Software vendors producing applications, other stake holders become member of these bodies and take part in formulating the policies for the whole industry.
On a regular basis, a huge group of physician’s offices, not having enough technical knowledge suffer from interoperability problems due to various technical problems. To solve this problem, the physician’s office should create another layer of professionals, who are technically sound enough to understand the software and interoperability challenges, for few years before the industry gets stabilized. This layer of professionals should act as CIOs / CMOs on behalf of the physicians. And, unlike other industries, in healthcare industry, the end users (CIOs / CMOs of Hospitals / anyone knowing about software and integration challenges) should also participate in the policy making process to make this process successful creating “Interoperable vendors’ list”.
Once the industry gets certified products and vendors in the market place, the health care industry will be able to take the challenge of HIE and other health care exchanges creating a seamless environment for transferring information among one another giving the best service to the end user – patients.