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Why the Market Can’t Solve the EHR Interoperability Problem

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 7.20.19 PMNiam Yarhagi’s  THCB piece, Congress Can’t Solve the EHR Interoperability Problem (March 21, 2015) raises excellent points with which I mainly agree.  So why write a responding blog?  Because I don’t agree with his solution.

To review:  Dr. Yarhagi discusses a draft congressional bill that calls for the creation of a “Charter Organization” that “shall consist of one member from each of the standard development organizations accredited by the American National Standards Institute and representatives that include healthcare providers, EHR vendors, and health insurers.”

Four agreements:   I agree with Dr. Yarhagi’s conclusion that the proposed charter organization will not succeed; I agree with his prediction that it won’t be able to develop useful interoperability measures (hint: these are the same vendors that have refused to cooperate for the past 30 years); I agree that the ONC or CMS will not decertify an EHR vendor that has over 50% of all American patients and providers; and I agree that there are some medical providers who intentionally refuse to share patient information (because they think it gives them a competitive advantage over their local rivals).

One disagreement:  But I disagree strongly with Dr. Yarhagi’s faith in the market to ensure that healthcare information technology (HIT) vendors will be obliged to “develop sustainable revenue stream through reasonable exchange fees negotiated with the medical providers.”  That is, he asserts that if there were a real market without federal subsidies and requirements that all healthcare providers buy the HIT,  then providers and the HIT vendors would agree on reasonable fees for exchanging patient records.Continue reading…

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