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HIMSS launches innovation center to test EHR interoperability

Federal regulators want EHR interoperability now. A new HIMSS center could let vendors test data liquidity.

The Health Information and Management Systems Society is planning to launch a new innovation center that will allow vendors to test and prove interoperability with other health IT systems.

The move comes as federal policymakers are putting increased pressure on the vendor community to make data more liquid or face stiffer data standard regulations.

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Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) officials announced today in a press call that the vendor trade organization has leased 12,500 square feet of space in the Global Center for Health Innovation in Cleveland, which is shared by other health care players, such as GE Co., Cleveland Clinic and Philips Healthcare. The HIMSS Innovation Center, slated to open in October, will host educational events and exhibits, as well as conduct interoperability testing and demonstrations.

The National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, M.D., has said on several occasions in recent months that he and other federal policymakers are dissatisfied with the pace of interoperability advancements among IT vendors. While he said the government would prefer to see vendors adopt data standards on their own, continued lack of progress could prompt government agencies to take a more "classic regulatory approach" to solve the problem.

The move comes as federal policymakers are stepping up pressure on the vendor community to make data more liquid or face stiffer data standard regulations.

During the press call, Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president and CEO, said the new center was not meant to be a direct response to Mostashari's comments. But he acknowledged it does address some of the federal concerns related to EHR interoperability. Lieber said providers often make IT purchases without considering interoperability because there is little information available about products' ability to share information with others. Similarly, vendors seldom tout EHR interoperability because there are limited means for testing and demonstrating it.

"We certainly believe that moving from the environment that we're in now, where there's not the ability for this continuous testing and validation, to an environment where there is, it does remove the excuse," Lieber said.

He added this kind of testing and validation was typically only done once a year during the annual HIMSS conference. The innovation center will allow the organization to do it on a year-round basis.

As for whether the annual HIMSS conference will be moving to Cleveland on a permanent basis, don't count on it. Lieber said the space being leased is too small to accommodate the event. For now, the Cleveland center will only host smaller educational series and demonstration events.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ed Burns, news writer, or contact @EdBurnsTT on Twitter.

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