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March 2017

Editor's Note: Interoperability Is Only One Step
By Lee DeOrio
For The Record
Vol. 29 No. 3 P. 3

The rallying cry for interoperability continues to ring loud and clear throughout the health care industry. It's been a steady wail for years now, with success stories dotting the landscape, shiny beacons of how the system is supposed to and can work. Still, there is much work to be done on the local, state, and federal levels.

Many efforts center on eliminating so-called information blocking, a tactic used by health care organizations and HIT vendors to protect their proprietary data. Other hurdles involve connecting diverse HIT systems, both inside and outside an organization. But no matter the barrier, an enormous amount of brainpower and manpower is being devoted to the cause.

Everyone is rooting for the day when medical records are exchanged seamlessly between providers, no matter the location or type of operating system. Indeed, it would ease patients' minds to know that their health information is accessible regardless of where they receive care.

While the eye of the industry is focused on achieving this connection, it must be pointed out that interoperability will be pointless if usable, actionable information and meaningful content are not given proper attention. That was the message delivered at a roundtable presentation at the 2017 HIMSS conference. In simple terms, exchanging documents is not enough if the information contained within is subpar.

That's where consolidated clinical document architecture (C-CDA) comes into play. According to Laura Bryan, MT (ASCP), CHDS, SHDI-F, vice president of MedEDocs Transcription, and Lisa Nelson, MS, MBA, a principal consultant at Life Over Time Solutions, the combination of narrative and discrete elements makes CDA documents the ideal conduit to painting a full picture of the patient's story.

C-CDA has been expanded to 12 document types, the latest being care plan, referral note, and transfer summary. Each CDA document is designed to address a specific purpose. With this attention to detail, providers have a better chance of receiving pertinent, meaningful documentation to improve care and lower costs. It may be an overlooked aspect of the interoperability puzzle, but minus this component the entire effort will ultimately have little to no effect. And that would be something to cry about.