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The Sequoia Project Not New to Health IT Interoperability

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The phrase health information exchange has a history of causing confusion. On one hand, nearly every state has an HIE, an organization responsible for health data sharing. On the other hand, there is the actually process of exchanging health information, known also by the abbreviation HIE. The distinction is not hard to make, but it goes a long way toward highlighting how its two meanings could cause confusion.

The Sequoia Project focuses on nationwide health information exchange and health IT interoperability

In a similar way, the organization responsible for tending to national HIE has donned a new name, with Healtheway giving way to The Sequoia Project. According to its CEO Mariann Yeager, the move signals an important step toward distinguishing the organization itself from the myriad health IT interoperability initiatives it focuses on, not just the eHealth Exchange or Carequality.

In a one-on-one interview with HealthITInteroperability.com, Yeager explains the significance of the name change and how it factors into advancing health IT interoperability across the country.

HealthITInteroperability.com: What motivated the change in name from Healtheway to The Sequoia Project?

Mariann Yeager: After expanding the role and purpose of Healtheway over the past several years, the Board decided it was time to have a more clear and distinct identity for the company independent of its initiatives that really speaks to the broader role that The Sequoia Project is now serving. We have developed a corporate strategy. The name and strategy will allow the company to evolve over the next ten years. We have some very specific roadmap activities that are more in the three- to five-year range and certainly some more specific priorities to this year.

READ MORE: Health IT Interoperability Ends 2015 on Transitional Note

We felt that we needed a platform and an identity to signal to our stakeholders and industry that we have a broader purpose to serve that is bigger than the sum of our initiatives, so to speak. Central to what we do is that gathering and then bringing together of different groups to help solve these practical, real-world interoperability challenges. There may be actually other ways for The Sequoia Project to serve as the corporate home for other, even existing, endeavors that would have greater support being part of that family of initiatives than on their own.

HITI.com: How will The Sequoia Project work with state- and community-based HIE efforts?

MY: The Sequoia Project looks at the problem that needs to be solved at a national level. The states and other groups are doing really important work in getting providers connected. There are a universal set of challenges. Let's face it — we hear every day about the challenges around patient matching, quality of content of the data being transmitted. That's a national problem and it's something that every state, vendor, and provider is facing, and what we need is that coalescing and bringing together of different stakeholders — industry and government — and working in collaboration with the standards development bodies to apply the very substantial lessons learned.

HITI.com: How will The Sequoia Project work with the federal government on health IT interoperability?

Mariann Yeager heads up The Sequoia Project, which focuses on nationwide health IT interoperabilityMY: As a non-profit with a public mission, we feel it is important to have all stakeholders, both in the private sector and government together, work through that. There are governmental agencies involved in all aspects of our work. There are liaisons to The Sequoia Project Board of Directors who help shape our strategic direction and inform it through their work. We would like to extend and help execute the federal vision for interoperability, and we're uniquely situated to do so because we are uniquely focused solely on interoperability from the perspective of a public purpose.

READ MORE: The Week Ahead in Health IT Interoperability: Oct. 19-25

In addition, we also a lot of conversation with legislators to educated them regarding the actual progress of interoperability across the country, to help inform based upon our lessons learned and those of the stakeholders and groups that are engaged in our company's initiatives, and to provide real-world perspectives on some of the issues they are contemplating when they're considering what public policy should be around interoperability.

We're very much in a bridging role, and we see that we have to work together across industry and all these initiatives that are doing great work toward having a common voice. That's really the purpose we want to serve.

HITI.com: What are the near-term challenges for health IT interoperability?

MY: Near-term challenges, there needs to be more education and awareness regarding the basis, foundation, and nature of the issues related to patient matching. Everybody knows it is a pain point — there's no question. There are multiple approaches for having pretty solid patient matching results and various approaches that can be used. One approach isn't necessarily going to solve the issue for everyone because there are differences in capabilities. We would like to have a national-level discussion and put forward the substantive research that we have been engaged in over the last several years with the Care Connectivity Consortium to help inform that discussion.

Patient matching has to be solved. There are already efforts underway to make strides in improving identify matching. There is probably a role for government and a role for industry. There are different things that each is uniquely situated to do.

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