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The debate over healthcare interoperability


If interoperability is to become a reality for exchanging patient data nationally, both the government and the private sector have work to do to overcome existing obstacles.

To date, the concept of exchanging patient health data-interoperability-is more vision than reality. While existing in pockets across the healthcare landscape, there is still no true electronic information highway for enabling physicians to share patient data efficiently.

Recently, Medical Economics convened a panel of experts to discuss the current state of interoperability and how to move closer to a goal of truly connected patient data. The panel consisted of:

Branzell• Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO, College of Healthcare Information Executives (CHIME) and its affiliate associations the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS), the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Technology (AEHIT) and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Applications (AEHIA).



Burchell, MD• Leigh C. Burchell, chair, HIMSS EHR Association (EHRA) and vice president, government affairs & public policy for health IT vendor Allscripts. She is also active in many industry associations, including as a member of the Leadership Council and chair emeritus and member of the Policy Steering Committee for the eHealth Initiative and as Vice Chair of the HIMSS Public Policy Committee.


Halamka, MD• John D. Halamka, MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston, Massachusetts), chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN),  co-chair of the national HIT Standards Committee,  a member of the Massachusetts State HIT Council, and a practicing emergency physician.



McCoy, MD• Michael J. McCoy, MD, chief health information officer (CHIO) in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). He is a board-certified OB/GYN who practiced clinically for more than 20 years, and has over a decade of experience in health information technology, with special interests in interoperability, user experience, and person-centered care.



Rowley, MD• Robert Rowley, MD, a practicing family medicine physician, health IT consultant, and entrepreneur. He built an early ambulatory EHR, which later became the basis of Practice Fusion, serving as the IT firm's chief medical officer from its inception until 2012. He co-founded and is chief medical officer of Flow Health, a universal patient-centered, longitudinal health data platform.


  • Is interoperability a realistic goal? [0:00 – 21:30]

  • Information blocking-problem or myth? [21:31 – 37:50]

  • Are health information exchanges fulfilling their intent? [37:51 – 45:26]

  • Who should lead push for interoperability: government or marketplace? [45:27 – 51:37]
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