Research firm KLAS has formed a new advisory team, comprising providers and electronic health record vendors as part of an initiative to assess health IT interoperability across the healthcare industry.

The advisory team, chaired by former Northwestern Memorial Hospital CIO Tim Zoph, will help oversee a nationwide KLAS survey aimed at measuring health information exchange and provider satisfaction with vendor support in enabling interoperable systems. Ultimately, the goal is to publicly report real-world clinician experiences with vendor interoperability and to track industry progress in achieving data exchange.

A measurement tool—approved by both providers and vendors at a KLAS Keystone Summit held last fall in Midway, Utah—is the process by which KLAS will evaluate vendors’ abilities to implement interoperability capabilities at their respective customer sites.

“This is a really important next step building upon the work that we began at the Keystone Summit,” says Daniel Nigrin, MD, CIO at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a member of the advisory team. “Because the team includes both provider and vendor representatives, it’ll provide a balanced perspective in efforts to improve the measurement tool that was discussed at the summit, with the mutual goal of improving the state of interoperability in this country.”

In addition to Nigrin, the advisory team includes other notable interoperability experts: John Halamka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Stan Huff, MD, CMIO at Intermountain Healthcare; and Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

Bob Cash, vice president of provider relations at KLAS
Bob Cash, vice president of provider relations at KLAS

Members of the advisory team drawn from the vendor community include: Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, GE Healthcare, Greenway, McKesson, MEDHOST, MEDITECH, and NextGen Healthcare—all of whom have agreed to the measures of interoperability and ongoing reporting.

“This is a really important threshold moment we’ve arrived at in the industry,” comments Tripathi. “It’s not easy to get this kind of agreement among providers and vendors. I think it speaks to the fact the industry is changing. People understand that we’re in a new world here, and we’ve got to get this done, driven by the private sector. ”

The interoperability survey has begun and will be completed and publicly reported by late September 2016, according to advisory team facilitator Bob Cash, vice president of provider relations at KLAS.

“We completed the questionnaire based on feedback we got at the Keystone Summit last year and just recently launched that out to the field to gather information from clinical end users,” says Cash, adding that KLAS is targeting nearly 500 providers to gain their input, or about 40 or so customers per EHR vendor.

Tripathi, who along with Halamka, Huff and Nigrin, helped develop the measurement tool for the survey observes that “unlike other kinds of survey instruments that KLAS has done in the past, this one is a lot more complex and requires more governance because they’re doing side-by-side comparisons of vendor interoperability and it has so many variables—it’s just a different beast.” As a result of this complexity, he says KLAS will actually call providers and help walk them through the survey “rather than just throwing it over the transom.”

Ultimately, it’s the user experience that matters most, Tripathi argues, likening the process to having a Consumer Reports-like organization—in this case KLAS—gathering feedback from clinicians reporting on the usefulness of data exchanges.

“The one area where they differ from Consumer Reports is that KLAS doesn’t have its own independent testing lab and doesn’t actually test vendor products,” he concludes.

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