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New EHR Interoperability Framework Touted as Game-Changer

"We know there has been a lot of progress to date and there's just this momentum which continues to grow and push efforts forward. We're on the cusp of seeing really tremendous progress."

By Sara Heath

- Carequality has officially released its Carequality Interoperability Framework to streamline interoperability and health information exchange across the healthcare industry.

Carequality releases framework for EHR interoperability

According to a public statement, the Carequality Interoperability Framework will more thoroughly connect EHRs and HIEs by including important elements such as legal terms, policy requirements, technical specifications, and governance processes. Additionally, this new Interoperability Framework will include past frameworks such as the Sequoia Project’s Principles of Trust.

Participants in Carequality’s initial roll-out to pioneer its approach to EHR interoperability and health data exchange include EHR vendors Epic Systems, eClinicalWorks, NextGen, and Greenway along with providers Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente and several HIEs.

This new framework promises to bring “previously unseen levels of connectivity,” according to the organization.

The Carequality Interoperability Framework was carefully developed at a slow pace. However, Carequality executives explain that this slow pace was necessary to ensure that the details of the framework were properly developed and would contribute to a more connected health IT and EHR industry.

READ MORE: Health Information Exchange to Build on 2015 Advancements

What it means for the industry

The Carequality Interoperability Framework is expected to richly enhance connectivity between health information management systems by including information, provisions, and policies that no other framework has included before. By combining legal and technical rules of the road, those behind the framework expect it to make significant changes in the health IT industry.

"What it means is that there is right now a contract that you can sign that puts you on this well-understood, well-specified level playing field and allows you to connect with anybody else who has signed on to the same framework," Carequality Director Dave Cassel told EHRIntelligence.com in a exclusive interview last Thursday with leadership from The Sequoia Project.

Additionally, the Carequality Interoperability Framework allows providers, payers, and other healthcare professionals to integrate their pre-existing connectivity efforts, such as an HIE, into their practices with the new Carequality framework. Carequality explains that they intend for multiple stakeholders across the industry to be able to engage with the new framework, including providers, payers, and government agencies.

According to Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project (the non-profit which operates both the eHealth Exchange and Carequality), the framework is a culmination of all the work the industry has invested in advancing interoperability.

READ MORE: DirectTrust Joins Federal Health Agencies for Interoperability

"It's a by-product of the community helping to shape a single nationwide interoperability framework that serves as this unifying force," she explained. "It's putting into practice and making real the very specific rules of the road and the legal framework that those in the implementation community can leverage to now share information more seamlessly across these various networks."

The new framework was carefully designed to first facilitate query-based exchange of clinical documents, but its architects expect the framework to be able to support several other uses as more healthcare professionals utilize it for their various needs.

 

The Sequoia Project oversees interoperability via Carequality and the eHealth Exchange

 

What's next for interoperability

READ MORE: RSNA, The Sequoia Project Partner for HIT Interoperability

The new framework has the potential to prove game-changing in the EHR and health IT industry as well as in care delivery as it enables providers to increase care coordination and enhance patient engagement. The challenge is getting it into practice as both Yeager and Cassel emphasized.

"We're on the cusp of seeing connectivity that has been unprecedented in this country," the former noted. "We know there has been a lot of progress to date and there's just this momentum which continues to grow and push efforts forward. We're on the cusp of seeing really tremendous progress."

Ideally, this new interoperability framework will streamline how different EHRs and other forms of health IT systems communicate with one another and securely exchange information. It is now up to stakeholders to buy in.

"The response that we're hoping for is that anyone who is an aggregator of connectivity — a data-sharing network, an EHR vendor, payers — will take a look at this and say, 'How could I potentially take advantage of this? Is this something that will be useful for me?'" added Cassel.

And so far so good for Carequality as interest is already building among groups not previously in collaboration directly with the organization.

"Now that the framework is available for use, we're actually seeing a much broader group than those who have expressed support and been actively engaged from early on," Yeager revealed. "You going to see a lot of cross-pollination — that people aren't really in camps; everybody wants to share data as broadly as they can."

Considering the importance of connectivity and the current push for interoperability, the release of this new framework will potentially be game-changing in the EHR and health IT industry, as well as in care delivery as it enables providers to increase care coordination and enhance patient engagement.

The Carequality Interoperability Framework signifies an important moment in the evolution of interoperability, moving from an inchoate idea to a known substance. That is the hope of those behind the work.

"Our whole focus is on interoperability and making it real. The community as a whole has been moving forward and has been lockstep in this for quite some time, and this is the full-fledged representation of their work over the past year," Yeager maintained.

With help from Kyle Murphy, PhD

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