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What We Know Versus What’s Real: Shedding Light On Interoperability

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Chuck Christian, VP, Technology & Engagement, Indiana Health Information Exchange

If you’re looking for an educational session that will provide all the answers on how to achieve interoperability, you’re not going to find it — at the CHIME Fall Forum, or anywhere for that matter. But if you’re interested in a candid discussion on the different approaches to interoperability, how organizations can work to improve data exchange, and why this topic is so vital to the industry, you’re in luck.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 10 a.m., Chuck Christian, VP of Technology and Engagement with the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), will draw from his experience to host an open, honest dialogue about a topic that’s close to his heart.

“I’ve been at the ground level of this thing called interoperability for a while,” says Christian, who was appointed to a committee in the early 2000’s that aimed to create a roadmap for data exchange and identify some of the key challenges. Between that experience, his time with IHIE (which began about two years ago), and the quarter-century he spent in the CIO role, he’s learned quite a few lessons that he hopes to share.

For starters, interoperability “is not one thing; it’s many things,” notes Christian, who has also worked with SHIEC and served on HIMSS’ FY17 Interoperability committee. “It’s an interesting and sometimes difficult concept.”

What it’s not, he says is moving data from one place to another — it’s also not bombarding physicians with all of the data available on a particular patient. “Users want data that’s pertinent to what they’re doing,” he says. “If it’s an ER visit, they want to know why the patient was in the ER, what testing was done, what were the results, and what was the plan of care once they left. They don’t need every vital sign. Moving data isn’t interoperability.”

Another misconception he hopes to address is the idea that all data exchanges are cut from the same cloth. “We need to stop painting HIEs with the same brush,” Christian notes, and that goes for vendor networks as well. “If your organization is an Epic hospital, and you’re in a region with a lot of other Epic hospitals, you might think the only interoperability you need is Care Everywhere. I don’t believe that’s true. They’re doing some great stuff, but will it meet all the interoperability requirements? I don’t know.”

If the industry is going to develop a better understanding of interoperability, we need to recognize that there are different scenarios and different use cases, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, he says.

Finally, Christian plans to call on CIOs and other attendees to challenge their vendors and make sure they aren’t being fed bill of goods when it comes to interoperability. “We sometimes have a tendency to believe that our vendors can deliver everything we need, and everything they say they can,” he says. And although it would be great if that were true, his decades of experience has taught him better.

He’s happy to share that experience, and “shed some light” on what can be a murky topic, and of course, thrown in some of his trademark “country boy humor” to keep attendees entertained.

“I think it’ll be interesting,” Christian says.

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