For years, the health IT community has been focusing on adopting technology to make health information digitally available. Now the focus is shifting from implementing the tech to ensuring interoperability, which is the ability for systems to work with other systems.

Painting a picture

Interoperability means unlocking the important health data that meets the demands of patients and consumers, doctors, hospitals, payers and others in the learning health system.

“What we are moving towards is a world in which health IT and interoperability enables better care and better health,” explains Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Acting Assistant Secretary for Health.

Digital goals

While progress has been made in digitizing the care experience, tools and technologies need to come together urgently.

“I am optimistic that we are within reach of every American having access to their electronic health information when and where it matters most to them,” says Dr. DeSalvo, noting interoperability will help build health technology’s next steps of payment reform and better care models, like medical home to scale.

Tech strategy

“A key priority is laying out a plan for how the public and private sectors could work together to achieve interoperability,” says DeSalvo. Getting started involves determining and implementing IT standards, as well as figuring out data security and privacy.  

“We need to incentivize interoperability and the appropriate uses of electronic health information,” sums DeSalvo, “with the goal to advance health care and health.”