EHR Vendor Promotes Standards-Based Interoperability - InformationWeek
Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
09:02 AM

EHR Vendor Promotes Standards-Based Interoperability

Greenway Medical Technologies uses Interoperability Work Group-like standards to exchange clinical summaries from ambulatory care practices with Epic and Cerner hospital systems.

8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way
8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way
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Greenway Medical Technologies, one of the oldest independent electronic health record (EHR) vendors in the United States, has recently placed its chips on promoting what it calls "standards-based interoperability." In doing so, the ambulatory care EHR vendor has joined the leading edge of a movement to break down barriers between disparate systems and reduce the need for expensive interfaces.

Greenway users already are exchanging Continuity of Care Documents (CCDs) -- standardized clinical summaries -- with other providers that are using the Cerner and Epic inpatient systems, Justin Barnes, VP of marketing, industry and governmental affairs for Greenway, told InformationWeek Healthcare. An announcement involving interoperability with a major ambulatory-care vendor is expected by early December, he added.

Other EHR vendors have demonstrated the ability to exchange CCDs in interoperability showcases, Barnes stated. "But we're not aware of where they're using standards-based interoperability in a deployed setting," such as a hospital campus or a healthcare community, he said.

Providers with disparate EHRs can, of course, exchange CCDs via health information exchanges, he said, but that requires costly interfaces. In contrast, he says, Greenway's approach, using "cross-platform exchange between different systems could reduce interoperability costs in America by 80%-90%. That's what we're trying to do."

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Greenway has already gone beyond CCD interchanges, employing standards created by the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) industry workgroup. For example, Greenway and Epic have both adopted IHE's Cross Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS.b), a Web services profile that facilitates the sharing of clinical documents between unrelated organizations.

This approach is strikingly similar to that of the Interoperability Work Group (IWG), a consortium of states, vendors and health information exchanges that has developed plug-and-play standards for sharing health information. IWG recently partnered with Healtheway, which operates the eHealth Exchange (EHE), to implement these standards by testing and certifying vendors and health information exchanges.

Greenway, a founding IWG member, expects to have little difficulty in meeting the certification criteria, Barnes said, partly because Greenway and IWG are both using IHE standards.

Meanwhile, he pointed out, the cross-platform interoperability with Epic and Cerner could be replicated in healthcare systems across the country. In addition, Greenway is the first ambulatory care vendor to be certified as part of the Cerner network, Barnes noted. That would make it easier for hospital-owned physician groups to adopt Greenway if their hospitals use Cerner, he said.

Greenway is also working with providers and payers in Austin, Texas, to build the infrastructure for a "healthcare community" committed to supporting new models of care delivery and payment, Barnes noted. While admitting that that will require cross-platform registries, analytics and care management tools, he said that it won't necessarily mandate a "full-blown" health information exchange. The information exchange could be done through standards-based interoperability among disparate systems, he said.

In the long run, he predicted, some healthcare communities might decide to work only with EHR vendors that meet certain interoperability criteria. "That will help drive the market faster by creating the demand for interoperable products."

Greenway, which received a cash infusion from an IPO last year, has also been expanding its relationship recently with retailer Walgreens. Having supplied a version of its EHR to the worksite clinics of Walgreens' Take Care Clinics, Greenway is now doing the same for Walgreens' pharmacies, according to an August announcement. WellHealth, a Walgreens EHR based on the Greenway product, is now in 200 pharmacies and will be rolled out to all 8,000 Walgreens outlets by next summer, the press release said.

The introduction of the EHR is part of a corporate initiative "that supports the transformation of [Walgreens'] traditional drugstores to health and daily living destinations," according to the release. "The WellHealth EHR will deliver to Walgreens pharmacy staff a single patient view capturing their immunization and health testing history with their prescription profile."

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User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2012 | 8:46:51 PM
re: EHR Vendor Promotes Standards-Based Interoperability
Standards are universal. They are the essential "glue" that underpins an organized society and allows different entities to work within a common framework while still remaining competitors.

EHR technology has a somewhat nascent relationship with standards because the technology is relatively "new" in the market. The problem with developing interoperability standards (no matter which industry) has always been "who has the best standard". Although I am almost certain that it will, let's all hope this industry does not devolve into that type of catfight. We do not have the time or patience for it.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/6/2012 | 5:49:50 AM
re: EHR Vendor Promotes Standards-Based Interoperability
Interoperability seemed like it used to be a distant dream with so many different formats pulling the market different ways, much like the dvd/laserdisc wars of the 90s. I'm glad there seems to be an emerging standard for interoperability and that it's finally being backed by large EHRs and corporations. As I've said before, I feel this is this this missing piece to really move EHRs forward. Unless everyone switches to the same EHR, until the data can be easily exchanged the data is still too isolated to be made use of.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
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