The Business Case for Healthcare Interoperability

The Business Case for Healthcare InteroperabilityFull disclosure: I wasn’t able to attend Allscripts Client Experience (ACE) this year. I did, however, watch CEO Glen Tullman’s opening address. During his address, a number of interesting points arose, including his vision for a “Connected Community of Health,” his take on the value of metrics and measurability, and Allscripts’ revamped customer care program. Via Skype, Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology, joined for a quick but informative Q&A session.

Mostashari brought some interesting insight as well, especially when Tullman asked for his insight interoperability. In response, Mostashari cited three approaches:

  • Enabling easy, effortless flow and access to information*
  • Ensuring privacy and security of sensitive information
  • Establishing a business case for exchanging information

*Due to the vagaries of Skype, it was a little difficult to decipher Mostashari’s first point literally, but that’s pretty much the point he made.

“Establishing a business case.” That inspired a few thoughts of my own. First, Tullman cited a number: only seven percent of healthcare organizations can afford to uninstall and replace their current IT environment with a single system.

That means that a vast majority – 93 percent of you – already contend with a microcosm of that need for interoperability every day. You need your systems to play nicely with each other. You are no strangers to the concept or its necessity.

Moreover, Mostashari is right to call out the need for a business case. Interoperability beyond the scope of an organization needs to make some level of financial sense. And this hints at one of healthcare’s core paradoxes. On the one hand, healthcare is about care and service, about serving the community and making people better. So many choose a career in healthcare for that reason. There’s an inherent degree of selflessness. If a patient presents to the emergency department in dire need of immediate care, I can’t imagine a hospital turning that person away, no matter his financial means.

On the other hand, we absolutely  can’t ignore the business side of the equation. To serve those people, hospitals need to make money. That means finding efficiencies where you can, ensuring every dollar earned goes as far as it can to support your organization and its mission. It means hiring the best people. It means establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage. And, as you know, it means so much more.

I’ll be interested to hear what business case the government (or anyone else) offers with respect to interoperability. At this very moment, though, what can you do? First, I suggest looking within your organization. Ensure that your systems and applications share information as fluidly and seamlessly as possible. At the risk of sounding particularly Zen, establish interoperability within before looking beyond. Then, at the very least, you’ll be as ready as possible for whatever level comes next.

In the meantime, Dr. Mostashari, we’ll be listening.

Jared Blankenship

Jared Blankenship likes words. He likes to read them. He likes to write them. And he likes to share them. That pretty much explains his decade spent in business and technology journalism. Rich in complexity and perspectives, the healthcare industry eventually replaced journalism. Jared has spent almost six years in the healthcare IT, humbled daily by the new things he learns and grateful to those willing to share their knowledge. He counts his time spent volunteering in a local ICU and onsite participation in two major Cerner EMR deployments as his most valued. And he looks forward to adding more.

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