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3 Ways to Make Strides Toward Healthcare Interoperability


JULY, 2015

Healthcare Integration

How to Clear the Fog of War within Healthcare IT & Interoperability

I believe General Clausewitz’s metaphor of fog to describe the fear, uncertainty, and problems with information that military leaders face in war is just as applicable for today’s healthcare IT leaders as they approach Interoperability. Healthcare IT leaders today face an increasingly unclear and ever-changing environment as we continue to improve how we exchange, interpret, and use healthcare data.

The acceptable word of the day is now interoperability. We’ve moved beyond using electronic data interchange (EDI), interface, and integration because we want more than just connecting and passing data. Health Information Exchange (HIE) is still appropriate for what it is, but we got too focused on discussing “noun or verb.” Even Meaningful Use (MU) is no longer sufficient for us since that now specifically defines a standard, and not our goal. Reflecting on the evolution of the terms used, we realize it’s been an effort to eliminate the fog in our vision forward as an industry. Interoperability it is!

Successful leaders make significant strides forward by clearing the fog on a continual basis. Fog that exists in an industry like ours, much like in war, will continue to exist even as we make progress so we need to intentionally work to eliminate it. Three ways we can work to continually clear the fog for your organization and make strides forward toward healthcare interoperability are:

3 Ways to Achieve Healthcare Interoperability | Core Health Technologies

1. Define a Clear VISION and Champion It

The best way to make sure we make sure the fog isn’t distracting is to focus on the end of the path. While we all are leading from different levels within our organization and will have different visions for our teams, we must be able to articulate where we’re headed and why we’re going there in the first place.

In his recent blog entitled “12 Things You Should Know About Health Information Exchanges,” Greg Barnowsky, Chief Architect at Independence Blue Cross explains the results of his HIMSS HIE workgroups findings to Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE). Several of the top challenges included the lack of federal standards, the organization’s value proposition, and the ability to integrate the technology into the organization’s workflow. All of these challenges are difficult to achieve, but with a clearly defined vision and purpose, leaders can motivate and lead their team down the path.

Quick Win Tip: Chose an objective on your team’s list that is not making progress. For example, I’ve heard multiple leaders talk about a list of physician’s organizations that they need to integrate with or more lab interfaces that need to get done. Whatever it is, use it as a way to reinforce your vision. Engage an experienced consultant to make progress on the objective and champion the effort to cast your vision of healthcare interoperability. By clearing the deck of tasks on the project hanging out there, your team sees progress and commitment toward that vision and better yet, they see your commitment to them.

“… the story we hear often is true; that we just never get the time to complete the project.”

2. Have the COURAGE to Challenge the Status Quo

Once the decision is made to move forward with a certain process, workflow, technology, or organizational structure, a lot of us have a tendency to put our heads down and execute the plan based on that decision without the awareness of the fog around us. We can’t afford to do that in healthcare today. Sometimes the fog around us ends up changing the underlying assumptions we based our original decision on.

In the 2014 HL7 Interface Technology Survey Results nearly 45% of all participants stated that while they were using their interface engine for what they initially intended, they knew there is more capability that they could use.  The difference was what we all face—that the ground shifted beneath us and requirements have increased since that decision. Make sure you stay up on the changing requirements and desires in your organization and the industry. Don’t allow yourself to accept the status quo just because the decision was made three years ago.

Quick Win Tip: Audit your use of a specific application, technology, process or team make-up. One example is to bring in an objective 3rd party consultant to conduct an audit of your use of your interface engine. You can always find ways to improve and things to applaud in your team and organization. An audit will do both.

3. Develop the PERSEVERANCE to See it Through

Fog can slow us down, and sometimes we even pull to the side and wait for it to clear. One thing that’s for certain in today’s healthcare IT environment—the fog will not clear without leaders’ help at every level. Whether the fog is the changing Meaningful Use and integration standards, challenges like data blocking, or even just internally competing for priorities like ICD-10, IT leaders must rally their teams to complete the mission at hand.

Meaningful Use, integration, and technology have consistently rated at the top of the list of challenges and list of current priorities for CIOs, managers, and professionals alike in Core Health Technologies’ series of annual HL7 technology surveys over the past several years. This juxtaposed to the lower ratings received for MU preparedness and HIE involvement within the same surveys implies that the story we hear often is true; that “we just never get the time to complete the project.” This can sometimes be the hardest challenge for the leader to overcome. Once initial progress is made on the project and another priority is front and center, the fog starts to surround the trailing project. A strong IT leader can make significant progress for the organization and their team by clearing the fog and getting it done.

Quick Win Tip: Identify one project that is not closed, has a finite amount of work remaining, but just not getting the attention it needs to finish. Enlist an experienced consultant for a limited engagement to jump in, hit the ground running, and quickly make progress and complete the project. Once again, by clearing the deck of existing project hanging out there, your team sees progress and commitment toward your vision and you are taking steps to interoperability.

While the fog of uncertainty, fear, and problems with information will only leave for a short time without continued effort, you can make great strides forward and build confidence within your team with tactical efforts to reinforce your vision, demonstrate your courage, and build perseverance.

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