As the healthcare industry attempts to solve the challenges standing in the way of interoperable health IT systems, stakeholders must recognize that there is no ultimate endpoint or goal for interoperability—it will always be a work in progress.

That’s the message Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, delivered on Monday during the opening keynote at a HIMSS18 pre-conference symposium in Las Vegas.

Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.
Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

“I don’t think we really have an end state where we say, ‘We’ve got interoperability—it’s done! Now, we can focus on other things,’ ” said Tripathi who is also manager of the Argonaut Project, an industry-wide effort to accelerate the development and adoption of HL7’s emerging Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. “We’re always going to be moving goal lines.”

Also See: Why healthcare interoperability moves at a snail’s pace

Nonetheless, Tripathi sees a time in the very near future when the vast majority of providers—80 percent—will be able send electronic health records securely to the vast majority of other providers anywhere in the country, as well as having the ability to request and retrieve EHRs.

“Just through the efforts of Carequality and CommonWell, I will submit that we’re going to roughly be there over the next two to three years,” he predicted, calling it essentially the achievement of nationwide interoperability.

In December 2016, CommonWell Health Alliance and The Sequoia Project announced an agreement to increase HIT connectivity nationwide, including providing additional health data sharing options between Carequality—an initiative of The Sequoia Project—and CommonWell. More recently, CommonWell said it has completed the required steps to begin piloting Carequality connectivity with initial provider sites.

“In anticipation of completing the process, CommonWell members have already secured pilot clients to participate in exchange starting this spring,” according to CommonWell Executive Director Jitin Asnaani, writing in a March 1 blog post. “Pending a successful pilot, it is anticipated that data sharing through bi-directional directed queries will be generally available between CommonWell subscribers and Carequality implementers this summer.”

A report issued last week by KLAS Research made the case that barriers to sharing data will go away when CommonWell connects to Carequality.

“Because sharing among Epic customers is already universal, when CommonWell connects to Carequality, the entire Epic base will become available, creating instant value for most areas of the country,” according to KLAS. “CommonWell will likely see a significant adoption increase with a solid Carequality connection.”

While the Carequality-CommonWell collaboration will “not solve every use case,” Tripathi concluded that it’s important for the industry to recognize the “significant win points along the way” to nationwide interoperability.

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