Arjen Westerink asks: “What it will take to encourage EHR [electronic health record] vendors to develop truly interoperable EHRs?” Collaboration and competition seem to be irreconcilable forces. “So far, there is little financial incentive to support true interoperability, and if anything, many vendors see some level of proprietary distinction as desirable – creating barriers to customer defection,” he writes.
He asks whether government should stimulate standards or whether the industry should wait for standards to emerge. The problem with this, as I see it, is that the industry can't hang around waiting for either eventuality. In particular, I don't believe that industry standards emerge by themselves any more. The kind of de facto industry standard that we used to see in, say, punch cards, was driven by closed intellectual property - patents and copyrights. That's not going to happen in healthcare data standards, and any organization nurturing the idea that it can produce a proprietary standard that will be taken up by the industry is kidding itself.
Data professionals in the healthcare industry need to get together and create standards. They need them for the growth of the industry. Trying to establish islands of dominance is not a tenable strategy. To do so is to fight yesterday's battles instead of building a bright tomorrow. Interoperability is coming – so bring it on.