FAQ #1 - Problems with Interoperability in Healthcare

Healthcare Interoperability FAQ Series

FAQ #1: What are some of the biggest problems with interoperability in healthcare?


Interoperability in healthcare does come with a few problems. The history of this challenge really, I think, is important. This challenge of interoperability has been going on for two decades. And that’s, in large part, because the basis of interoperability, number one, requires cooperation. And number two, standardization.
The first challenge for interoperability has continued until recently but will change as a result of the new ONC rules. You’re trying to implement interoperability and cooperation in a market that’s driven by business. You’ve got EHR vendors, and the essential design of their business model is they’re trying to ensure their clients remain with them, and they’re trying to acquire clients that are not with them. By nature, it’s a competitive field. And by design, you can see that when it’s competitive and the bottom line is there to answer to shareholders and the business, the will and the level of cooperation that exists around actually moving forward with interoperability for the benefit of better coordination of care and better patient outcomes is in direct conflict. The great thing about this new rule is that it has removed that particular obstacle.
The next challenge, of course, has to do with the standardization and that has been in the works really for more than a decade. How does healthcare system or healthcare systems overcome that particular issue around standardization? HL7 SMART on FHIR standards is really the answer.
And so now, the interoperable guidelines have standardized the coding. What is this particular resource or healthcare piece of information about this client? How is that coded? Once that’s standardized, and those standards are finalized, published, and adopted under this rule, we can overcome one of the biggest barriers which is to make sure that information is being consumed and displayed correctly in terms of what it means, regardless of the system that it’s being exposed to.


Dr. Steve Weatherbee

Dr. Weatherbee has spent decades working in education, behavioral health, public health, and more. He has experienced the unique challenges that exist in this field from multiple disciplines. His work in program evaluation lead him to create eINSIGHT to empower behavioral health service providers to improve client outcomes.