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Lack of Management Harms Mobile Data Interoperability

“We have sent men to the moon and robots to Mars. We should be able to move one electronic file – no matter how big, no matter how old – from one computer system to another."

By Vera Gruessner

- The health IT field of today faces a major challenge as it becomes a mainstay of the healthcare industry. With health IT and mobile health expected to revolutionize medical care and improve patient health outcomes, it’s imperative to address the lack of mobile data interoperability affecting health information exchange among multiple facilities and between providers.

Mobile Data Interoperability

As previously reported by, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has been advancing the issue of mobile data interoperability through its nationwide interoperability roadmap as well as addressing the problems associated with information blocking.

A finalized draft of the interoperability roadmap further pushes the need for mobile data interoperability and regulations required to improve health information exchange. Healthcare providers will now be able to access more clear guidelines for sharing medical data among neighboring hospitals and clinics.

“This Roadmap has been developed in partnership with the private sector and provides a clear, strategic approach to see that we successfully achieve seamless interoperability by creating the right financial incentives, establishing shared and explicit standards, and developing a trusted environment for data flow that enables patients to make their health records accessible anywhere they choose to seek care,” Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., national coordinator for health IT, said in a public statement. also reported how improving mobile health regulations could potentially advance mobile data interoperability throughout the nation. Data sharing and connectivity can be strengthened with the help of mobile health applications and other digital devices.

The Subcommittee on Information Technology held a hearing earlier this week to discuss the data interoperability developments from the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

“It’s the year 2015. We live in a complex, interconnected society with self-driving cars, wearable technology, and complex algorithms that can predict when a critical, mechanical component is going to break,” Chairman William Hurd stated at the hearing.

“But our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are making the transition from DoD to VA healthcare are literally told to print out hardcopies of their medical records and then walk them to the VA.”

“We have sent men to the moon and robots to Mars. I feel we should be able to move one electronic file – no matter how big, no matter how old – from one computer system to another. I don’t mean to understate the enormity of the challenge of integrating the two largest federal bureaucracies, but it is clear to me that our inability to integrate these two systems is a problem of leadership rather than technical feasibility,” Chairman Hurd posed.

“The story of the interoperable electronic health record starts in 1998 with the government computer-based patient record initiative. Since then, I have counted six programs or other initiatives from 2002 to 2013 designed to increase the exchange of healthcare data between the VA and the DoD.”

“In that time, we’ve had three presidents and two wars. And the members of our armed forces are coming home to find that two decades was not long enough for these two departments to get together and develop a workable and fully interoperable electronic health record.”

“At its core, this is not a problem of technology. This is an issue of management,” he mentioned. “Why did these two departments abandon the integrated health record program?”

“Continual failures to make deadlines and deliver on capabilities led to these two departments doing what they so often have done in the past – go their separate ways,” Hurd claimed. “The current plan for DoD and the VA to modernize their healthcare IT infrastructure in order to achieve full interoperability lacks metrics and goals. These are not issues of data standardization. This is Management 101.”


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