The barrier for entry into interoperability is too high right now for providers. If a health system owns 100 physician practices, for example, and each of those practices requires a $10,000 installation for an interoperability interface, that's a $1 million cost just to start opening the data.

Removing Barriers to InteroperabilityBoth providers and vendors can work toward a better system. With the CommonWell Health Alliance, players like Cerner, athenahealth and McKesson have all agreed to make data integration services available for free to providers.

Providers too can use their leverage to move the industry along by including interoperability in their RFP processes, working with vendors on total cost of ownership, and negotiating with vendors on items like interface fees.

Government is also part of the solution. As the largest payer for healthcare services, it can and should make payment incentives. It also can pull the lever on regulatory tools: The Office for the National Coordinator should be setting a high bar for interoperability and a time frame in which it should be delivered. Allowing the providers and developers to manage the road map, however, is key to getting the right outcome.

I'm a big believer in: if you don't lead, you're accepting the status quo. We can lead our way out of the state we're in now by forming together with other like-minded providers, vendors and healthcare organizations to keep pushing toward more transparency and better interoperability.

This blog was originally published on the Modern Healthcare blog.

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About the author

Arien Malec is vice president, data platform and acquisition tools, at RelayHealth, a health care information technology business unit of McKesson. He’s also a member of the HIT Standards Committee, a federal advisory committee that advises the National Coordinator on standards, implementation, guidance and certification criteria for health IT.


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