Interoperability: What Is It, Why Can't George W. Bush Pronounce It, and Why Was It Such a Big Deal at HIMSS15?

2015's HIMSS conference in Chicago, IL, was dominated by a singular megatrend - interoperability. While not a new concept, it is now more important than ever for both the healthcare IT industry, and politicians' vocabulary.

HIMSS is the largest healthcare IT conference in the industry, and every year, Cramer attends with aim to discover the burning hot topics and trends that are about to shape our futures.

Why? Because we love healthcare, technology, and conferences. And we're obsessively curious about the breakthrough experiences that define and revolutionize these industries.

This year, the big topics were value-based care, mHealth mobile and telemedicine, patient engagement and activation, security, and the conference's hottest trending word, interoperability. What is that?

Interoperability means the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities. - HIMSS.ORG

The focal point of the HIMMS 600,000-square-foot show floor was an entire interoperability experience. A showcase that followed a patient's journey through the healthcare system. The major takeaway from this experience was seeing first-hand how interoperability allowed caregivers at each stage to utilize all relevant information to provide absolute optimal care.

Interoperability all about communicating data systems. It is the solution that expands the silos. Instead of being stuck within one data system, you're able to bridge multiple through using strategic partners and third-party handlers.

Or at least that is the idea. Moving from concept phase to this being the reality of our healthcare system will take some time, as there are many hurdles to jump. But this is without a doubt the way of the future.

There have long been complaints about the lack of interoperability among healthcare vendors and, coupled with the lag in adoption and serious progress of electronic health records (EHR), this remains a hotly contended topic.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) criticized healthcare IT vendors for not sharing patient medical data and for implementing unreasonably high data access fees. As a result, leading vendors at this year's conference announced that they would temporarily eliminate or drop fees in an attempt to stimulate the interoperability trend and facilitate better shared networks.

It remains to be seen what real improvement will come, but making improvement is certainly a key focus for most of the vendors and HIMSS attendees alike.

It is a beautiful vision: A world where health data is easily shared and accessed by multiple physicians and specialty clinics at various touch points in a patient's journey and throughout various stages of their life. With no geographical boundaries to boot! Just more informed doctors delivering better healthcare recommendations and outcomes for patients.

The burning question -

Why couldn't President George W. Bush pronounce interoperability in his keynote address?

There's really no judgement here. It is a hard word to say!

Rob Everton

Senior Director, Business Solutions & Creative Technology / Cramer

Request as Speaker

Additional contributions by Jonathan Ronzio

Stay in the loop

Sign up to receive the latest on what we are thinking, reading, and writing.

Want to learn more about our services?

Let's Talk

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »