Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Interopability: Bringing Systems Together

CEO Minute - April: Interopability: Bringing Systems Together

ceo minute

A major challenge faced by Texas Tech Physicians, and all health care organizations, is coordinating the delivery of health care services effectively across multiple settings. As you may know, health systems and their employed and affiliated providers in Lubbock, as in most all communities, do not use the same electronic health record (EHR) system, so aggregation of data and communication is difficult. Of course, we use Cerner, as does UMC. Our friends and colleagues at Covenant use Meditech, Covenant Medical Group uses Allscripts and Grace Health Care System uses GE Centricity EHR. (Notice I am not even mentioning the several free-standing ERs we now have in our community—I haven’t researched what type of EHRs they use.)


How to bring all of these systems together?


The answer is interoperability. That’s a nice “fifty-cent” word. I chuckled this morning to myself as I was writing this column, as one of the characters in the cartoon Dilbert was saying (poking fun at jargon), “At the end of the day, I want some actionable insight that will improve our cross-platform integration.” That is the idea here, “cross-platform integration.” Attend any national meeting and you will hear this word interoperability repeated over and over.


What it describes is the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data and use the information that has been exchanged. The main BHAGs (pronounced bee-hag, author Jim Collins famous term for "Big Hairy Audacious Goals") of interoperability is to provide a mechanism to connect providers for the purpose of improving the delivery of health care by making the right data available at the right time to the right people. That is a BHAG for sure.


What sort of things do we need to connect to make this work? Well, for starters there is e-prescribing. Then we need messaging standards, standards on how information is processed and managed, and standards on how consumer devices integrate with all of this, such as tablets and PCs.


We are working with a company called Hart Inc., to connect with the Covenant Health System and Commonwell Health Alliance to connect with many other providers and expect some progress in the upcoming months with both companies. Of course, there are the security issues. Always the security issues.



I think the payoff will be worth the trip.