Integration vs. interoperability

'Providers who are not connected in this way will become irrelevant'
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ATLANTA – Integration and interoperability are both important, but interoperability is the new frontier in health care, says Brightree CEO Dave Cormack.

Integration is the ability to move data from one technology to another, he says. There’s been no shortage recently of partnerships that pave the way for this (see story above).

Interoperability, on the other hand, is the ability to view patient data across the healthcare ecosystem using one platform, Cormack says.

“It’s a different kind of hand shaking,” he said.

Knowing the importance of interoperability, Brightree joined the CommonWell Health Alliance about a year ago. Founding members of the alliance, a nonprofit organization creating a vendor-neutral platform for health data exchange, include big names like Cerner and athenahealth.

Including its investment in the Alliance, Brightree has spent about $6 million to make sure it has the “plumbing” in place to electronically exchange data with other entities, such as hospitals and physician practices, Cormack says.

“With an initial 5,000 hospitals and physician practices going live by the end of 2015, and this number set to grow exponentially during 2016, the explosion of relevant and available data over the next 18 months and beyond will enable a new era of care based on the quality of patient outcomes,” he said.

The transition to outcomes- and performance-based health care, and efforts like the CommonWell Health Alliance mean that, in the not-too-distant future, referrals will move through a limited number of electronic referral management systems, such as athenahealth, Allscripts and Curaspan, Cormack says.

“As payers begin to demand a transparency of data across the healthcare system, providers who are not electronically connected in this way will become irrelevant,” he said. “They will lose their referrals.”