Talking Health IT on Capitol Hill

Yesterday I participated on behalf of AEGIS in a briefing to U.S. House Representative Gene Green who represents the Houston area. I was invited by HIMSS along with executives from a few other member companies including Orion Health, Allscripts, Humetrix, and the Institute for e-Health Policy. The purpose of the session was to help Rep. Green understand the current state of some of the key technological issues facing the healthcare community, particularly issues that Congress could influence. We focused the discussion on three main points:

  • Interoperability of health system data
  • Job creation in the health IT space
  • Patient engagement and how health IT can support it

Most of my comments had to do with interoperability given AEGIS’ focus on interoperability and conformance testing. Here is the statement I delivered to Rep. Green:

Interoperability among health IT systems remains a significant challenge. Systems need not only to be able to exchange information accurately, but also to share a common understanding of that data. This objective is being pursued today through implementation of information sharing standards, but issues surrounding compliance with and interpretation of those standards is leading to interoperability failure. Another problem is that interoperability is currently being viewed as something achieved at a particular point in time – a checkbox – when in reality, it is continuous interoperability that needs to be the goal. Continuous interoperability means the production systems remain at all times in compliance with standards, supporting quality care, and continuing to protect patient privacy. The solution is to make available and perhaps even require more interoperability testing that focuses on standards conformance at various stages: during systems development, as part of product certification processes, as part of ongoing production system surveillance, and even as a proving ground during electronic health record (EHR) software acquisition efforts. AEGIS offers an open-source interoperability testing platform that’s tailored to health IT information exchange – the Developers Integration Lab (DIL). As a reference specific to your constituency, several of the Texas Health Services Authority’s health information exchange members have successfully demonstrated interoperability with Healtheway’s eHealth Exchange (formerly called the Nationwide Health Information Network) using the DIL. The DIL is currently being used by the VA to test interoperability among systems supporting a nationwide immunization program for Veterans.

Overall, it was a great dialog and I appreciate Rep. Green taking time from his busy schedule to meet with us. I also thank HIMSS for the invitation and I  look forward to continuing these kinds of discussions in the weeks and months ahead.

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