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Coming to HIMSS16: Interoperability Meets HIE—in the Complexity Salon

February 18, 2016
by Mark Hagland
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At the nexus of HIE and interoperability exists a bundle of overlapping issues. One of the HIMSS16 preconference symposia will focus on that nexus
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There are many issues that apply to the overlap between interoperability and health information exchange (HIE). So much so, in fact, that those organizing HIMSS16, the annual conference of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS), have combined the two subject areas into one, for purposes of the preconference symposium in that combined area, to be offered to attendees on Monday, Feb. 29, at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Gary Ozanich, Ph.D., a visiting professor in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky. (in the greater Cincinnati metro area), is current national co-chair of the HIMSS Interoperability and Health Information Exchange Roundtable.

In that capacity, he helped to facilitate the discussions that led to the final program of the interoperability and HIE symposium. Among the sessions to be presented include “On the Road to Interoperability: Accelerating Through the Curves”; “Standards: Moving Beyond Meaningful Use”; Interoperability and Data Analytics”; “Facilitating Innovative Data Exchange and Re-Usability”; and “Striving for Semantic Interoperability.”

Gary Ozanich, Ph.D.

Recently, Ozanich spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about the symposium and more broadly, about some of the broader issues facing healthcare leaders in the key areas of health information exchange (HIE) and interoperability. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Tell me about the development of the symposium’s program.

I think it’s very important to stress this: this program was put together by a committee of nine people. And it’s the committee who did this. This is the first year that HIMSS has basically merged the health information exchange and interoperability committees; they used to be two different committees, but now they’re one. So, nine people put the program together. It’s the fourth year I’ve worked on developing this particular symposium. I was basically responsible for writing the content.  I’m a past chair of the HIE committee.

So the opening keynote session, “The Interoperability Roadmap in Practice,” will, according to its description, provide an update on progress made on the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. Can you provide any hints about what might be shared with the audience?

Yes, as you noticed, Steve Posnack, director of the Office of Standards and Technology in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, will present. Last year, we had Erica Galvez, and this year, it will be Steve. Basically, the session will provide an update, and based on last year, the model we used will be an extensive question and answer session with questions from the audience. And we’re expecting a large audience of about 350 people. What’s more, our audience tends to be very senior people very savvy people. So it will be a real opportunity to get an update from a senior ONC official.

Tell me a bit about the panel discussion-based sessions.

The rationale in the morning is that we sort of broke off in two directions. Track 1 is probably closer to the historical questions around interoperability and technology, and Track 2 is the content more traditionally around HIE, but of course, they’re very interrelated. And in Track 1, Elliot Sloane [Elliot Sloane, Ph.D., president, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE)] will provide an update on the IHE initiative [Session 1 Track 1: Standards: Moving Beyond Meaningful Use]. And Terry O’Malley, whom you may know from Harvard [Terry O’Malley, M.D., a physician practicing in the Partners HealthCare System], and who’s done a really good job of bringing forward some new solutions that are standards-based—he has a lot of experience at Partners in terms of the practicality and problems around interoperability for a practicing physician. And Elliott will be talking about the progress being made towards implementing a healthcare data enterprise, and Dr. O’Malley will talk about the challenges of doing this is a practice session.

And the second session in Track 1 [Session 2 Track 1: “Interoperability and Data Analytics”] will involve Daniella Meeker [Daniella Meeker, Ph.D., assistant professor, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California] and Matt Hoffman [Matt Hoffman, M.D., CMIO, Utah Health Information Network]. And they’re doing really interesting things in Utah, doing health information exchange, and doing analytics based on that, for population health.

So, looking more broadly at the U.S. healthcare industry right now, do you see as the biggest HIE and interoperability issues around population health work?

And that leads to the afternoon sessions. Even when you achieve technical interoperability, semantic interoperability remains a huge issue. And with regard to Session 4—“Striving for Semantic Interoperability”—John D’Amore [John D’Amore, chief technical officer and president, Diameter Health] published a study in JAMIA [the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association] focusing on semantic interoperability.

What do you see as the core semantic inoperability issues facing the industry right now?


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