When I was growing up in Texas I remember that we used to have Pep Rallies before our major sporting events. The idea behind a pep rally is to get the juices flowing and get fans engaged and cheering for the home team. On Thursday this week the West Health Institute and the ONC are hosting “Health care Innovation Day, HCI-DC 2014: Igniting an Interoperable Health Care System” where the purpose is to get people cheering for interoperability between EHRs, health IT systems, medical devices, and related technologies.
What I love is that this event is being held to “Drive demand for an interoperable health care system”. Interoperability can happen at process levels, system levels, software levels, and many other levels. I get the feeling that we’ll be talking more about systems and software instead of the (arguably more important) process, training, workflow, and other levels but it’s a great start.
Kudos to West Health and ONC for focusing on demand, it’s the key problem.
The event, like most hosted by West Health and ONC, will include a “who’s who” of major figures from government, non-governmental organizations, and commercial sectors. If you want to meet the movers and shakers of health IT, it’s worth attending. Here’s the general agenda for the various panels:
- 9:00 Perspectives from the Point of Care: Hear from caregivers and patients about challenges they’ve faced due to a lack of interoperable devices, systems and software.
- 10:20 The Business Imperative for Interoperability: Leading hospital CEOs discuss the role of medical interoperability in improving patient care and lowering costs, and plans for an interoperable healthcare system.
- 11:20 Fireside Chat: ONC/FDA Efforts Toward Interoperability: Understand perspectives from key government agencies on recent developments, lessons learned and issues to address in transforming healthcare delivery.
- 1:45 Keynote: Malcolm Gladwell, Author
- 2:45 What We Can Learn from Other Industries: From national security, to the movie business and global finance, industry leaders share lessons learned and ideas for innovation that can be applied to the healthcare system.
- 4:00 The Innovation Paradigm for Vendors: Hear from leading developers on the age-old debate of market forces versus mandated forces and what the innovation paradigm means to them.
- 4:45 The Big (Data) Picture for Health Care Delivery: Interoperability may bring an overwhelming amount of data to physicians, patients, hospitals and the healthcare system as a whole. Are we ready to handle it?
Let’s take a look at the panels from a more realistic perspective and what will actually be said:
- 9:00 Patients complain to anyone that will listen that they have to enter data multiple times and can’t access their own records as easily as accessing an ATM, doctors complain they don’t have access to records when they need it, don’t have data on their iPads and iPhones or mobile devices, and have to resort to faxes.
- 10:20 The hospital buyers of big EHR systems complain to the vendors that their data is held hostage and they can’t use data across multiple vendors’ software
- 11:20 The government explains how important interoperability is and that we all need to focus on it going forward
- 1:45 Malcolm Gladwell will explain how far behind healthcare is, that it’s need to think differently, and solutions exist in other industries (if only healthcare execs would learn from it)
- 2:45 Some panelists complain that healthcare is behind and that other industries have solved some of these problems already while others will remind the audience that healthcare is not like any other industry
- 4:00 The innovators and existing system vendors espouse that their systems have the ability to interoperate but others won’t follow their lead or that health systems won’t buy the right software
- 4:45 Panelists here will remind us that we can barely handle the little amounts of information we gather now, how might we be able to handle the orders of magnitude increase in data in the future
I love the HCI-DC kinds of events because they at least talk about the important topic of interoperability. If the event goes well, then the following root causes of interoperability failures, which have been known for some time, will be highlighted:
- Patients don’t really demand it — meaning they don’t switch providers who don’t give them access to their records
- Healthcare providers don’t really demand it — meaning they don’t buy EHRs or systems because of their interoperability
- Hospital CEOs and CIOs don’t really demand it — meaning they don’t punish EHR vendors or medical device manufactures that don’t have it by taking their business elsewhere
- Government officials don’t really care about it — meaning they don’t incentivize it, they don’t regulate it, there are not statutes that require it
- EHR and health IT vendors don’t really care about it — the buyers don’t demand it and the government doesn’t require it
- Medical device manufacturers don’t really care about it — most devices remain analog and can’t communicate digitally and the buyers aren’t demanding it plus the government isn’t requiring it
It’s a simple economics problem — the supply of interoperability will be directly proportional to actual demand (not hopes and wishes) for that service. Because interoperability is a hope, not a demand and vendors who don’t supply it will not be punished, interoperability won’t be supplied. If we can come out with the plans for how to do the following we’ll have a successful event:
- Teach patients to switch providers, health systems, and other suppliers of healthcare if they don’t meet their needs
- Teach physicians to switch EHR vendors and medical device manufacturers that do not meet their requirements
- Teach hospital CEOs and CIOs to write interoperability requirements into their RFIs, RFPs, and buying documents
- Teach hospital CIOs to write data liquidity and ownership retention clauses into their software contracts with big vendors
- Teach buyers of medical devices to stop buying analog devices and switch to digital devices
- Teach buyers of EHRs and digital medical devices to stop buying systems that charge for interoperability or connectivity
Please join me on Thursday and let’s push for real change rather than just a pep rally.