An adage in health informatics is you can't improve what you can't measure, and apparently the leaders of a dozen top electronic health-record developers have agreed that applies to interoperability as well.
As part of a healthcare information technology summit earlier this month, the 12 vendors issued a consensus statement saying they've agreed to a set of “objective measures of interoperability and ongoing reporting.”
The vendors “proactively stepped forward to have an independent entity publish transparent measures of health information exchange that can serve as the basis for understanding our current position and trajectory,” according to the statement released Monday by KLAS Enterprises, an Orem, Utah-based health IT market research firm that hosted the conference in Midway, Utah.
Leaders of EHR vendors Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic Systems, GE Healthcare, Greenway Health, Healthland, McKesson, Meditech, Medhost and NextGen Healthcare have signed on in support, according to KLAS.
Provider organizations and informatics experts participated in reaching the agreement, KLAS said. “Vendors and providers willingly committed to go arm in arm to work closely with Washington to help alleviate the interoperability-measurement burden faced by the government.”
“The idea was to get agreement to a baseline, Consumer Reports (like) ways to measure interoperability and KLAS would be the organization to do that measure,” said Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.
Tripathi moderated the day-and-a-half session where the consensus was reached. The session also included Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; Dr. Stan Huff, CMIO at Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City; and Dr. Dan Nigrin, CIO and senior vice president, information services at Boston Children's Hospital, who along with KLAS representatives assisted in developing a set of draft metrics.
Developers and providers alike have faced criticism in recent months from members of Congress over missing links in the interoperability of electronic health-record systems despite a public investment of $31.5 billion federal dollars.
Recent government studies, however, based on independent survey data, indicate the exchange of health information is growing among hospitals, physicians and patients.
“There's pressure coming from every direction,” Tripathi said. “Pressure is coming from providers themselves, from patients, from the Congress. No one can ignore that.”
But Tripathi said this is an example of private sector problem solving. “This is actually not coming from the government at all. It's a completely private sector initiative.”
“The consensus on an objective measure is a great step forward for the industry as executives find ways to overcome the complex issue of interoperability,” said Adam Gale, KLAS president and CEO.
The proposed interoperability reports are based on information gleaned from healthcare providers about their own health information technology systems and would include both “harder” and “softer” information, Tripathi said.
For example, harder data could come from providers checking off the types of interoperability they have achieved using a specific vendor's system, such as sending or receiving lab results or being able to query and receive information from a health information exchange or the proposed nationwide health information network.
The softer questions, such as "how responsive is this vendor to your interoperability needs," might seek out experiential types of information would be, Tripathi said.
The information gained from the interoperability reports “will be useful in a couple of ways,” said Huff. It will yield real information about differences between vendors and how some systems communicate with some customers very well or how "some vendors have a better track record of heterogeneous communicating, if there is a different vendor on the other end of the relationship.”
The data also will be useful to policymakers, Huff said. The intent is to produce some general reports that would go to government agencies and others to show how the market is moving, he added.