August 18, 2022
Shawna Koch Mishael, Head of Healthcare and Biomedical, RN, MBA, SenecaGlobal

This year’s HIMSS Conference offered some exciting insights and a renewed focus on data-sharing and interoperability. While the healthcare industry has been extolling the virtues of data interoperability for years until recently it has remained one of the biggest obstacles to providing quality healthcare today. Yet, the tides are turning. New government regulations, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ interoperability rules and the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard enforcement, have finally been passed that support a seamless flow of medical information.

As a result, we are now seeing an acceleration among technology companies to offer innovative healthcare experiences that previously weren’t available. Healthcare tech companies can finally more easily share data with others in the healthcare ecosystem and create tools that are interoperable with healthcare systems. 

During the HIMSS conference, the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) released a report on how to more accurately measure the progress of health data interoperability. Speaking about the report, Mary R. Grealy, president of the HLC stated, “… By determining what challenges we face in data flow, we can better improve sharing of information to give stakeholders the ability to better improve outcomes…”

Grealy alludes to the data flow barriers that still exist today even while some important federal interoperability standards have been passed. The key to true interoperability is understanding what those new barriers organizations are facing that prevent them from advancing on their goals. 

Below are 3 key considerations for small to medium-sized healthcare technology innovators to think about when harnessing the potential of the new open data exchanges to evolve and transition into true data interoperability.

1. Invest in your people, technologies and partnerships 

– Look to your internal talent pool and invest in your human resources. Upskill employees that will help your company generate strategies aligned with the financial health of your organization.

– Leverage technologies that enable an interoperable state such as APIs and microservices, terminology services that offer a common set of vocabulary, codes, and values that disparate systems understand, and make sure your vendors and internal resources are FHIR compliant. 

– Create partnerships among care teams, clinicians, patient advocates and IT services firms to foster easy-to-use, financially transparent experiences that encourage patients to invest in their health and entice federal agencies to fund initiatives. Consider turning to IT services firms which can help companies get through the learning curve and even maintain long-term interoperability. If you hire an IT services firm, make sure the organization has the know-how to determine what makes a good experience both technically and through the physical services required for your end-user.

2. Learn from those who came before you

– Take note of how organizations like Health Level Seven (HL7) are approaching and helping to launch interoperable solutions. HL7 is a set of international standards that provides guidance with transferring and sharing data between various healthcare providers. It provides a comprehensive framework for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. 

– Pay attention to HL7 Accelerators such as Davinci, Gravity, FAST, and Vulcan. These players are moving the industry beyond mandates. Also, note how the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT(ONC) is defining usage. 

– Meet with fintech, banking and finance leaders to learn from their digital transformation wins and losses. Healthcare technology companies can learn valuable lessons on how the financial industry broke through legacy barriers and reshaped it to what it is today.   

3.  Prepare for interoperability speed bumps

– Be ready to respond to old thinking. As you begin to work in the evolving new interoperability world, you’ll encounter adjustments, mistakes, and risks. Vendors and lobbying staff may continue to make the case that blocking transparency in pricing, or data actually protects patients’ interests. Don’t pay attention to them.

– Don’t invest in vendors or others who cannot pivot their technical debt fast enough to keep up with innovation. As in any industry with steep innovation curve acceleration, the field will leave some players behind. 

– Focus on how data interoperability supports strategic business decision-making and how partnering with capable IT services partners will allow you to differentiate on quality, advanced services and care, safety, and convenience. 

Recently passed federal regulations that promote interoperability have removed some of the barriers to interoperability. However, for interoperability to reach its full potential, there are other information exchange obstacles that need to be addressed.  One key part is for healthcare technology vendors to address the lack of technical readiness that prevents them from fully supporting customers. As all parties in the healthcare ecosystem continue to learn about the data workflows and organizational needs, we should see even more gains in healthcare technology and interoperability as healthcare professionals, researchers, IT experts, data scientists, and politicians pave the path forward.

About Shawna Koch Mishael 

Shawna Koch Mishael is head of healthcare and biomedical for SenecaGlobal. In this role, she helps healthcare innovators accelerate the path from concept to solution so people can more quickly realize the benefits of their products and services. Shawna is a recognized leader in healthcare information technology (IT), having held management roles in operational, IT services and consulting firms such as EPAM, Cognizant, IBM, PwC, Koch Healthcare Consulting and Adventist Health Systems. She has been integral to the development of consumer-centric omnichannel products at some of the nation’s most strategic healthcare organizations. She is passionate about advancing technology solutions to improve patient care.