The ONC and Interoperability: Are We on the Right Path?

In ONC’s recent communication article from Micky Tripathi, he says that in the last three and a half years they have been hard at work advancing the way interoperability supports the care environment. The article goes on to discuss their work, vision, and more interoperability consideration.

Micky continued to discuss and explain on his recent appearance on HIMSS TV.

As always the ONC is also looking for your feedback. So we rounded up some of our usual suspects to give us some of their thoughts on the ONC’s vision and direction.

Jim Tate, EMR Advocate
LinkedIn: Jim Tate
Host of The Tate Chronicles – #TateDispatches

I’m all for TEFCA and HTI-2 as they push to lay more groundwork for healthcare data interoperability. My continuing concern is the fact that there is no concerted effort to provide funding or training to providers in the use of these services and tools. Where are the best practices and lessons learned by actual real-world use of data external from an EHR? In 2009 the HITECH ACT made $27 billion available to eligible professionals and hospitals that adopted health IT. That type of funding is needed again for interoperability to not only be present but used to the benefit of patients.

Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser, Senior Director of Community Strategy, DirectTrust
LinkedIn: Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser

It’s exciting to see progress around additional interoperability efforts aimed at driving better health through data utilization.  While TEFCA represents a big piece of the interoperability puzzle, I feel it’s important to shift the conversation to include additional interoperability use cases related to public health and care coordination. Additionally, security, technical trust, and locating endpoints continue to be at the forefront as we expand our interconnected digital ecosystem. For example, DirectTrust has one of the most robust interoperability directories, with recent efforts enabling us to add and cross-reference additional endpoints. As ONC continues furthering its vision of better health enabled data, DirectTrust fully supports these efforts and looks forward to contributing to additional progress in these critical areas.

Jay Anders, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Medicomp Systems
LinkedIn: Jay Anders, MD
LinkedIn: Medicomp Systems

FHIR should be adopted as a standard. A robust clinical dataset must be the basis of any clinical exchange to be truly interoperable. In medicine, the details count. To that end, ONC must aggressively require the full set of FHIR elements to be available for exchange. Interoperability has been on HIT’s radar for years. It is time we get serious about the ability to send a complete medical record anywhere it is required, not just a few elements such as medications, lab results, and diagnoses. As a clinician, I would like to see ALL the data for any patient I am treating, not just snippets.

Piotr Orzechowski, CEO, Infermedica
LinkedIn: Piotr Orzechowski
LinkedIn: Infermedica

Although significant progress has been made in healthcare interoperability, it’s crucial to recognize that considerable work remains. Overcoming the complexities of seamlessly exchanging health data involves addressing obstacles such as standardization, data quality, security issues, and accessibility.The potential of interoperability to revolutionize patient care, spur innovation, and advance medical research is clear, and tackling these challenges is important in realizing a healthcare system that is genuinely patient-focused and efficient.

John Blair, MD, CEO, MedAllies
LinkedIn: A. John Blair, III, MD
LinkedIn: MedAllies

I enjoyed listening to Micky Tripathi’s 2024 interoperability roadmap webinar and believe he is on target with where we still need to go to achieve our goals. I thought he did a nice job explaining the genesis of the TEFCA FHIR roadmap from the FHIR at Scale Taskforce recommendations, and agree with his recommendations around the need for directories, security, and data agreements.

Aparna Bala, MSHI, RN, Sr. Product Manager, CliniComp
LinkedIn: Aparna Bala, MSHI, RN
LinkedIn: CliniComp

Building a strong digital foundation in healthcare to realize interoperability of data across all systems supports well-coordinated and efficient patient-centered care. ONC’s broader efforts to ensure the appropriate use of digital information and tools to improve care access and health outcomes for all will set the foundation for a future characterized by cutting-edge clinical decision-making and predictive analytics tools.

Brett Furst, President, HHS Technology Group
LinkedIn: Brett Furst
LinkedIn: HHS Technology Group

We welcome additional guidance from the ONC on interoperability, which is a critical goal for the healthcare system that will reduce administrative burdens, relieve provider burnout, and decrease the likelihood of medical errors. We have seen the benefits, in particular, of interoperability among Medicaid Enterprise Systems that enable states to improve the provider management and enrollment processes. By streamlining many of the administrative processes that providers must complete prior to delivering care to Medicaid patients, provider management systems that deliver interoperability enhance the provider experience, reduce credentialing and verification times, increase staff productivity, and promote the highest quality in patient care.

Sulabh Agarwal, CTO, KeyCare
LinkedIn: Sulabh Agarwal
LinkedIn: KeyCare

The 2024 interoperability roadmap under Micky Tripathi’s guidance showcases a strategic continuation for standardizing healthcare IT practices. In particular, it highlights the importance of solving emerging challenges such as transparency in AI and ensuring that AI safe and accessible. By actively seeking and incorporating stakeholder feedback on its roadmap, the ONC is demonstrating its ongoing dedication to balancing potential inefficiencies with an inclusive framework that insures healthcare interoperability improvements.