Is Interoperability the 'Unicorn' of Health Data?

by Akanksha Jayanthi

Source: Hospital CIO

While more and more healthcare providers are adopting and implementing EHRs, achieving interoperability may be as attainable as spotting a unicorn, argues John R. Graham, a senior fellow of The National Center for Policy Analysis. As such, he argues Congress ought to reconsider allocating more funding to this project.

In an entry on the NCPA's blog, Mr. Graham said lack of interoperability is one of the main reasons meaningful use stage 2 was extended through 2016.

While meaningful use incentives are pushing interoperability, "evidence from Congressional investigations suggests that meaningful use bounties have encouraged the adoption of EHRs that are deliberately closed to exchange with other parties," Mr. Graham wrote. "The problem is that exchanging data with competitors is fundamentally against the self-interest of the party which created the data."

Mr. Graham illustrated his point by saying people would not expect the U.S. Department of Agriculture to incentivize grocery stores to exchange data with one another, even though it would be valuable for shoppers who are trying to find best prices.

"The amount of government funding required to overwhelm competitors' resistance to doing this would surely not be worth it," Mr. Graham wrote. If the $26 billion already invested in health IT and meaningful use initiatives hasn't yet achieved the outcome, he said it is unlikely that any more money will help.

"Congress should be very skeptical of appropriating yet more funding to hunt this unicorn," Mr. Graham concluded.