Social Interoperability


By Keith Boone, Healthcare Standards

Every now and then a string of words will get put together, and peoples ears perk up, and you realize that you’ve created a new meme.  That happened to me Wednesday at the HIMSS Standards and Interoperability panel presentation.  We were talking about how to make it easier for patients and providers to communicate about how to get their data.  One nurse in the audience talked about how, when patients ask for their CCD, the person at the other end of the conversation wouldn’t know what they are talking about.  CCD and CCDA are geek speek.  Another audience member explained that giving every provider an EHR shouldn’t come with the expectation that they would all become computer geeks.  I completely agree.  We need a better way to talk about this.  A way that grandma, or my 10-year old can understand.

The benficiaries of interoperability are patients, and yet we still haven’t given them a way to communicate how to get their data.  This is where the notion of social interoperability comes in.  It’s your data, ask for it is a short commercial I wrote a script for back in 2010.  The idea behind it was that we need to educate patients about how to ask for their records in a way that everyone, patients, providers, and vendors understands.  What they mean is give me my CCD and/or CCDA, but we geeks don’t really need for everyone to understand that’s the secret sauce.

It’s what marketers would probably call a brand awareness problem.  What is the brand for patient engagement?  Is it CCD/CCDA?  BlueButton?  BlueButtonPlus? VDTNow? Meaningful Use?  None of the above?  We need to agree on, and communicate that to patients and consumers, and then we need to educate vendors and providers what that means.

Social Interoperability, the ability to communicate with normal human beings, will create the demand for and use of technical interoperability.  And that will get us all where we want to be.  After all, it isn’t just providers we want to be meaningful users of data and technology, it’s for patients too.

Keith Boone is the “Standards Geek” for GE Healthcare, and cochair several committees in organizations such as IHE and HL7. He writes about Healthcare Standards where this article was originally published. You can follow him on Twitter where you can follow him @motorcycle_guy.