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Interoperability progress in 2017 was fueled not by government policies or incentives, but by healthcare IT vendors and private-sector collaboratives.
That’s the conclusion of Healthcare IT News Editor Mike Miliard after he assembled a comprehensive year-end list of activities and initiatives which are moving ubiquitous healthcare interoperability closer to reality.
“In years past when we've compiled similar articles, many of the news items would be about the data exchange implications of Stage 2 meaningful use, say, or initiatives from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, such as the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap or the Interoperability Proving Ground,” Miliard writes. “This year, many of the stories focus on innovations from the private sector, whether it's longstanding groups like HL7, startups like the Intermountain-backed Redox or giants such as Epic and Apple.”
Indeed, Miliard’s list bears this out: From Cerner pushing for an open approach to interoperability to Epic’s Share Everywhere data exchange tool to Apple’s collaboration with HL7’s Argonaut Project to integrate even more electronic health data with the iPhone, private-sector initiatives grabbed the interoperability spotlight in 2017.
With so many private entities working on interoperability, how will the various technologies and specifications work together to enable providers and patients to share health data as needed? Will one set of standards and tools eventually emerge?
Perhaps eventually, but in the short-term they will develop concurrently, according to Russell Leftwich, MD, senior clinical advisor of interoperability at InterSystems and an HL7 board member.
As Miliard writes, Leftwich expects the healthcare industry to pursue a hybrid approach to interoperability standards in the near-term, with existing HL7 standards such as Version 2 and CDA continuing to be used along with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), the organization's next-generation interoperability specification.
Based on last year’s activities, it’s clear that the private sector is taking the reins on healthcare interoperability. The coming year should see more of the same.