MACRA and 21st Century Cures Act Will Drive Interoperability Forward

AlanPortela-croppedIn my years of attending HIMSS I have always carved out time to talk with Alan Portela, CEO of AirStrip. The San Antonio company’s tagline is Healthcare Without Boundaries focusing on providing organizations with a mobile interoperability platform for getting real-time access to patient data and analytics.  Interoperability and our progress towards it is a topic Mr. Portela speaks passionately about, and I had a chance to ask him what his thoughts were on the gains the industry is making post-HIMSS.

Interoperability was again a major focus and topic at HIMSS. What is your take on the progress the industry is making towards its goal of full Interoperability? How will the 21st Century Cures Act impact and/or push Interoperability?
Freeing up and securing clinically relevant data – as well as leveraging from existing innovation around mobile technology, analytics engines, care coordination/communication tools and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – will accelerate not only the move to a value-based reimbursement model but also to a consumer-driven health model. During the past decade, most of the initiatives and incentives were based around deployment and utilization of electronic health records without seriously considering interoperability and cybersecurity. In addition, modernization of other clinically relevant data sources such as medical devices were completely excluded from the incentives provided by the federal government. The bipartisan support for both MACRA and the 21st Century Cures Act will force the industry to open up and complete the journey, moving from a hospital-based model of care into a patient-centric model and start moving healthcare down the road to personalized precision medicine.

What were some other interesting trends and insights you heard at HIMSS17?
HIMSS17 marked my 24th year in attendance. Ever since my first conference in 1993, vendors have consistently been more concerned about the hot topics of the day, rather than conveying what they actually have to offer. A few years ago, I remember walking through the exhibit area prior to the start of the conference and observing that most vendor signs were about ICD-10. Then, just before that HIMSS was set to start, the federal government announced a one-year delay on ICD-10 compliance. Immediately, many vendors started switching their signs to interoperability messages. Over the years, it has become very clear that the most important trends are the ones you learn by getting closer to your customers, rather than listening to vendors.

Coming out of the show, what issues do you think the health IT industry needs to focus on most urgently? How do we address them?
Take a clinical workflow-driven interoperability approach and identify data elements needed to support those workflows. Recognize that clinically relevant data comes from multiple data sources – EHRs, medical devices, genomic, phenotype, and so on. This data, both structured and unstructured, is not always available via interoperability standards. Therefore, we need to immediately force vendors to expose open APIs and, in parallel, we need to enhance and enforce the compliance to those standards.

In addition, securing that data has to be the top priority moving forward. The good news is that the cybersecurity standards exist, and we only need to enforce them.

Which initiatives do think have the most promise when it comes to transforming healthcare?
Precision medicine is the one initiative that can transform healthcare, enabled by a variety of technologies.

Finally, tell us a little about new innovations AirStrip is currently working on?
After more than a decade leading the industry in clinical data aggregation and visualization, we now are creating an ecosystem of shared-value partners in the areas of clinical domain-specific body sensors in cardiac care, diabetes and high-risk pregnancies among others, along with analytics tools. Our objective is to enable those partners to provide the right data insights for individual disease treatment protocols and for us to leverage our strong visualization tools to improve the user experience. We will continue to proactively pursue the highest level of diagnostic clearances and cybersecurity certifications, which have helped us gain the trust of our customers.