Health IT

Group launches national effort for health IT interoperability

doctor and laptop

Interoperability is a big buzzword in health IT, and refers to the goal of having the range of diverse electronic health records and provider platforms share data both seamlessly and securely. Nonprofit public-private collaborative Healtheway, which was spun off of federal government work on health care IT, announced a drive to create such standards through a new industry group.

The lack of industry-wide standards is a long-standing roadblock for institutions to adopt and make the best use of health IT systems. However, with increased investment in health IT by private companies, and the phasing in of electronic health record requirements for health care providers billing federal entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, the time appears ripe for increased industry collaboration on interoperability.

The new effort, dubbed Carequality (pronounced care-equality), is designed to "try to come up with an interoperability framework that would bridge current networks and allow them to share health records as seamlessly as ATM networks do in the financial services arena," said Mariann Yeager, Healtheway’s executive director.

Healtheway launched in 2012 to take over the eHealth Exchange, an initiative of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT to enable the information exchange between federal, state and private health information networks. The group still works closely with government, and individuals from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Health and Humans Services serve as liaisons to its board of directors.

Carequality launched with the backing of 26 industry partners, including national pharmacies, insurance carriers, health IT firms and others. Its work will consist of bringing together people from different corners of industry to agree on a framework of requirements that will allow for the secure interchange of patient data.

The plan is not to create specific standards, but to establish a framework that industry can use to make sure systems can work in tandem. "We're definitely not talking about creating a single technology platform on which all health information exchanges work," Yeager said. "Carequality is going to be focused on convening industry to figure out how to bridge and interconnect all the different efforts that are underway today."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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