Executives of 12 major electronic health record vendors met earlier this month and have agreed to interoperability metrics that participants are calling Consumer Reports-like in their design and the first of their kind for the healthcare industry.

Companies at the summit that vendor research firm KLAS Enterprises convened included: Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, GE Healthcare, Greenway, Healthland, McKesson, MEDITECH, MEDHOST, and NextGen Healthcare.

The vendors adopted a standard interoperability measurement tool developed by John Halamka, M.D., Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Stan Huff, M.D., Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Intermountain Healthcare, Daniel Nigrin, M.D., Chief Information Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

Tripathi led and moderated the KLAS Keystone Summit held in Midway, Utah, which included provider CIOs as well as EHR vendors who agreed by consensus to the measures of interoperability and ongoing reporting. According to Tripathi, the goal of the KLAS initiative is to assess nationwide interoperability, for which the industry doesn’t currently have good benchmarks. “We literally don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “We just have no ability to measure it at a nationwide level.”

“I don’t know of any measurements of interoperability in the industry,” commented Huff.  “So, in that sense, this new proposal from KLAS puts the ball on the field. There is now at least one survey of vendor interoperability. I think the survey is a good starting place for measuring interoperability.”

Also See: ONC Releases Final Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap

“Leaders of 12 different EHR vendor companies proactively stepped forward to have an independent entity publish transparent measures of health information exchange that can serve as the basis for understanding our current position and trajectory,” said KLAS in a written statement.

“The measurement tool is the instrument that KLAS will be using moving forward to assess vendors’ abilities to implement interoperability capabilities at their customer locations,” said Nigrin.

Among the questions that the measurement tool will seek to address going forward, according to Halamka: Was the information you needed to coordinate care available when you needed it? Was it available between different vendor EHRs or the same vendor’s EHRs? How usable was the workflow?

“Interoperability can be measured in two ways—transaction counting and the experience of clinicians,” observed Halamka. “You need both to transparently report the real world state of data exchange. Meaningful Use has concentrated on counting transactions. If I send you a payload that is of no value to you, I can claim victory—the transaction was sent. The vendor CEOs gathered in Salt Lake agreed that as an industry we should have an independent Consumer Reports-like entity speak with clinicians in the field to report on the usefulness of data exchanges. The power of the meeting was that the entire private sector agreed to public reporting of customer interoperability experiences without the need for regulation.”

Greenway Health CEO Tee Green said that “pulling down walls to unlock health data between systems” is “essential to improving care coordination and, ultimately, outcomes” and that he’s “proud to be among the industry leaders on the forefront of this initiative.”

Likewise, Cerner emphasized that it is “committed to removing barriers to advance patient-centered interoperability” and “collaborating with our peers to connect organizations and systems, regardless of platform or provider, to achieve true, industry-wide interoperability.”

According to KLAS, the next step is to put a plan in place to launch and monitor the measurement, which will include “continued involvement from those participating in the summit.” Huff said he is looking forward to “seeing results from the first surveys and then making tweaks and additions as needed.”

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