Turning CIOs into Chief Interoperability Officers

Below is a guest blog post from Tee Green, president and chief executive officer of Greenway Medical Technologies, Inc.

Should every health system, hospital or group practice CIO know that to do interoperability right they need to consider XDS or PIX at the core of functionality? That these cross enterprise document sharing and patient identifier cross reference protocols can reach into another EHR?

Health IT solution providers should, and it’s clear from a survey of CIOs commissioned by Greenway that CIOs want leaders who will partner in their pursuit of the data liquidity that fits their needs. Right now education outranks selling, as interoperability is arguably the most important factor in addressing the range of care coordination programs every healthcare entity is facing. Tee Green new headshot.jpg

It’s also clear that the growing EHR replacement market is being fueled by a reassessment of original platforms lacking in comprehensive data exchange at a point when the improvement of population health should not take any backward steps.

The survey specifically found that the primary concern CIOs have about utilizing technology in their healthcare system is of course interoperability. Twenty-six percent voiced it in basic terms, and another 18 percent specifically in terms of medical staff alignment, which is itself a function of interoperability through the alignment of hospitals and clinics on EHR platforms capable of seamlessly exchanging data. That’s 44 percent overall, which outweighed cost at 22 percent.

Who should carry the burden of interoperability? Forty-nine percent chose a shared process between health IT solution providers and the healthcare system. Thirty-three percent chose a shared approach additionally led by health IT. Taken together that’s 82 percent voicing the need for a shared partnership. That’s an overwhelming result the industry needs to listen to.

And don’t think that today’s patient-consumers are not aware that technology matters. We surveyed them too, and 56 percent notice when technology is used at the point of care, and believe it helps their doctors do a better job. They also realize, by a 3-to-1 margin, that technology beats paper when it comes to sharing data.

Where do we go from here?

National organizations like the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup - a coalition of state agencies, EHR companies, HIEs and certification experts - are solidifying standards, from PIX to C-CDA, and must also foster and project a sense of selfless collaboration with CIOs and doctors and nurses.

This is a key example of how together health IT leaders can create a smarter and sustainable healthcare system, and takes away any skepticism that the industry is not in it for population health. And the movement to national interoperability must be led by the industry, not by external policy, to further assure CIOs that motivations are in the right place.

Our survey did not reflect an overly negative attitude, and that’s because health IT leaders are already showing the willingness to partner with each other.

Development agreements and data exchange pilots by perceived market competitors are starting to emerge that align hospitals and clinics and integrate with HIEs, and select EHR-to-EHR exchange has become a staple of an interoperability showcase near you.

I predict that by the time meaningful use Stage 2 gets underway in 2014, the thresholds for data exchange being tied to incentives - electronically transmitting 10 percent of care transitions, at least one to a different EHR platform - will be eclipsed. The healthcare industry expects it. It’s the primary concern, the primary need for partnership, and the primary way for health IT to deliver.

What do you think?

View the entire survey, “Healthcare Information Technology: Trends and Transformations,” at www.meetgreenway.com.