Last week I attended with my colleague Mike Berry the ONC 2017 Technical Interoperability Forum. This meeting was convened under the 21st Century Cures Act passed by Congress in late 2016. Several hundred attended a series of panel presentations and discussions over one and a half days covering a variety of topics related to interoperability, including discussion of the business case for interoperability, semantics, national networks, and application programming interfaces (APIs). In many ways the speakers were “the usual suspects” involved in national networks, standards development, and HIE planning and implementation.
Nearly two years ago I wrote an essay, The Interoperability of Things, based on the collection of comments received by ONC on the draft Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. Though I asked the new National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Don Rucker, in a previous meeting if the Roadmap was still relevant and he said it was, there was absolutely no mention of this document at the Forum and it did not seem like the Roadmap was the operative guide for ONC activities or thinking. My own essay drew out a number of themes in interoperability I perceived at the time, including: lack of consensus on definition and scope; ambiguity over the role of HIEs, especially at the state level; disagreement over whether the pace of change was too fast or too slow, too general or too specific; and the complex state of consent and privacy laws across the country that really put a crimp in cross-state data sharing.