Eliminating the Interoperability Question

I just finished reading Victoria Brock’s excellent post Stop! Just stop with the “Interoperability”. In it she expresses the frustrations with healthcare systems vendors that represent their products as “interoperable” to non-IT buyers, knowing that those people will assume the best of what interoperability could mean. This is a phenomenon of human nature that I blogged about 12 years ago!

I agree with Brock. We need to educate our colleagues involved in reviewing clinical IT systems to stop asking the Interoperability Question. It is too vague and gives the vendors a chance to say yes to a different question than what is truly being asked. We need to train our non-IT colleagues to think about what they mean when they say interoperability. We need to give them examples of alternative questions, such as:

  • How will the medication list in your system automatically reconcile with the medication list in our core EHR? Where have you done this?
  • How will the allergy list in your system automatically reconcile with the medication list in our core EHR?

Brock reminds us that these interoperability questions involve three parties, the two application vendors and the client. Because something is possible doesn’t mean it will happen of all three parties are not committed to the work. We need to educate our colleagues that these interoperability questions cannot be answered by one party alone.

Those of us that are very clear about the the problem we are trying to solve and the new problems we are trying to avoid will have the most success.

2 thoughts on “Eliminating the Interoperability Question

  1. Right on, Will! I think the non-IT customer believes that “interoperability” should work like Plug-and-play. For plug-and-play to do its magic, there is so much investment on the vendor’s side to make sure their drivers meet the specifications. The customer sees none of that (except when a driver needs an upgrade!) and takes for granted that everything will play well together. When in reality, that kind of interoperability would require a much bigger investment on the EHR vendor’s side than I think any of them are willing to pay. It’d be great if there really was plug-and-play at the application/system level, but I think that’s nirvana.
    IMO, a responsible EHR vendor should speak more in terms of their interfaces and the ability to communicate with those interfaces instead of “interoperability.”
    The fact that the vendors don’t speak in this way, keeps IT solutions groups like the one I work for in business! There will always be a need for us (especially if the customer wants to keep a lean IT staff), but it seems deceptive to lead the customer to think that this is going to work like plugging in their mouse or keyboard.

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