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Provider-Backed Health Data Interoperability Organization Launches

Posted on April 12, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In 1988, some members of the cable television industry got together to form CableLabs, a non-proft innovation center and R&D lab. Since then, the non-profit has been a driving force in bringing cable operators together, developing technologies and specifications for services as well as offering testing and certification facilities.

Among its accomplishments is the development of DOCSIS (Data-over-Cable Service Interface Specification), a standard used worldwide to provide Internet access via a cable modem. If your cable modem is DOCSIS compliant, it can be used on any modern cable network.

If you’re thinking this approach might work well in healthcare, you’re not the only one. In fact, a group of powerful healthcare providers as just launched a health data sharing-focused organization with a similar approach.

The Center for Medical Interoperability, which will be housed in a 16,000-square-foot location in Nashville, is a membership-based organization offering a testing and certification lab for devices and systems. The organization has been in the works since 2011, when the Gary and Mary West Health Institute began looking at standards-based approaches to medical device interoperability.

The Center brings together a group of top US healthcare systems – including HCA Healthcare, Vanderbilt University and Community Health Systems — to tackle interoperability issues collaboratively.  Taken together, the board of directors represent more than 50 percent of the healthcare industry’s purchasing power, said Kerry McDermott, vice president of public policy and communications for the Center.

According to Health Data Management, the group will initially focus on acute care setting within a hospital, such as the ICU. In the ICU, patients are “surrounded by dozens of medical devices – each of which knows something valuable about the patient  — but we don’t have a streamlined way to aggregate all that data and make it useful for clinicians,” said McDermott, who spoke with HDM.

Broadly speaking, the Center’s goal is to let providers share health information as seamlessly as ATMs pass banking data across their network. To achieve that goal, its leaders hope to serve as a force for collaboration and consensus between healthcare organizations.

The project’s initial $10M in funding, which came from the Gary and Mary West Foundation, will be used to develop, test and certify devices and software. The goal will be to develop vendor-neutral approaches that support health data sharing between and within health systems. Other goals include supporting real-time one-to-many communications, plug-and-play device and system integration and the use of standards, HDM reports.

It will also host a lab known as the Transformation Learning Center, which will help clinicians explore the impact of emerging technologies. Clinicians will develop use cases for new technologies there, as well as capturing clinical requirements for their projects. They’ll also participate in evaluating new technologies on their safety, usefulness, and ability to satisfy patients and care teams.

As part of its efforts, the Center is taking a close look at the FHIR API.  Still, while FHIR has great potential, it’s not mature yet, McDermott told the magazine.

Is Hospital Consolidation Being Driven By HIT Issues?

Posted on April 27, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she’s served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

As just about any reader would know, Community Health Systems is engaged in a $3 billion hostile bid to take over Tenet Healthcare Corp.  As I noted on another blog, this may or may not be a good idea, but hospital consolidation is clearly in the air.

Just look at the past year. Not only has CHS attempted to take over Tenet, Tenet moved to gobble up Australian hospital chain Healthscope, private equity firms have been  sinking big bucks into regional systems and local chains are merging with big ones.

All told, according to Irving Levin Associates, 77 hospital-related M&A deals took place during 2010, the highest number since 2001. We’re talking a monumental $12.6 billion in deals, according to Irving Levin research.

The question is, why last year as opposed to any other?  Commonly-cited factors include:

*  Attempts to batten down the hatches to prepare for health reform

*  Opportunistic buying by chains and venture firms, as hospitals continue to struggle with the aftermath of the 2008 market crash

* Hospital willingness to close or merge in the face of rapidly-changing times

What you don’t see mentioned often — in the mainstream business press at least — is the staggering cost of upgrading health IT infrastructure to the levels needed for enterprise-grade performance.

During the process of implementing an EMR, IT costs can shoot up 80 percent, according to Accenture, driving up hospital costs 200 basis points or more.

And that’s just the beginning.  Health IT leaders must address database management, workflow integration, upgrades to communication infrastructure and much, much more.

The bottom line is that if all of these systems don’t work together smoothly, hospitals won’t be able to collect the quality data they must produce to survive in the new era.

Given these pressures, it’s hardly surprising that hospitals and systems hope to stare down their massive IT costs by throwing their lot in with bigger partners.  Hey,  it’s certainly worth a try.