Welcome back to reality after a whirlwind week in the ‘Windy City’. I’ve actually been on the road the past three weeks for various trips—some personal, some work related—so I truly hope everyone has had a chance to recharge and reflect because I know I need that.
The HIMSS23 Buzz – Artificial Intelligence
Speaking of reflection, let’s talk about HIMSS23 takeaways. Those who were there know attendance surged over last year. There were quite a few buzzwords echoing throughout the halls of Chicago’s McCormick Place—including but not limited to Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT. These are important tools that could add incredible value to health care with one critical caveat: The power of these “next best things” can’t be effectively harnessed until they have access to data on patients. How, for example, is AI going to solve a patient’s problems without comprehensive data on that patient? We need to focus on what we already know needs to be done under TEFCA to get us to where we have the data to feed into these exciting new technologies.
While I think AI has huge potential, I do think it will take some time for real applications to emerge. One telling point is we have not had any AI companies ask how to exchange data with CommonWell Members and their providers. AI-driven clinical applications can be trained by available data warehouses, textbooks, scientific journals, compendiums, etc. but actual care will need identified data about individuals and that is where networks like CommonWell come into play.
Was interoperability overshadowed by the AI buzz?
I don’t think so. Interop and data sharing was talked about all over the conference. Also, the Interoperability Showcase was livelier than ever.
Which brings us to another HIMSS23 buzzword—TEFCA. The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, more commonly known as TEFCA, is no longer just an idea. Initial candidate Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs)—which will connect to form the backbone of TEFCA and enhance nationwide interoperability—have been announced. At HIMSS, we heard from more who intend to apply. The next year is going to be critical as these candidate QHINs do the legwork to onboard and build TEFCA and build new use cases to exchange different types of data. Due to the nature of CommonWell’s work—we took part in four panels on the topic. The buzz is growing—but it is clear that more education is necessary to help healthcare organizations and providers understand what to do next to help shape it.
We believe TEFCA is THE final destination—the theme that every HIMSS attendee should know more about. The future of our industry depends on its success and the time to move it forward is now.
Is TEFCA an inevitable success?
The way I see it there are two camps of HIMSS’ attendees:
- Those who have some awareness of TEFCA and how it impacts them—either as individuals or organizations. At the CommonWell booth, for example, we had visitors introduce themselves as “QHIN shoppers.”
- Those who don’t yet understand why TEFCA is inextricably linked with the future of interoperability in the United States.
We need to increase the number of people in the first camp. But even those in the first camp, might be wondering what—if anything—they should be doing.
Here are two things you can do now to get ready:
- Get educated: The Sequoia Project, the Recognized Coordinating Entity for TEFCA, has a variety of resources available here. They also have monthly update calls that are open to the public. Register here.
- Pick a QHIN: First, make sure you do not already have one. Many reading this will get on TEFCA through their existing vendor(s) and do not need to do anything. Still, some of you likely need to pick a path. Read up on the candidate QHINs and join one if your organization hasn’t yet. This isn’t the time to wait and see – being involved early will give your organization an opportunity to shape TEFCA and help ensure its success. Plus, all 6 prospective QHINs have interop services you can take advantage of today.
What’s Beyond Treatment?
Part of what TEFCA will do is push the industry to go beyond the treatment use case and standardize use cases for other purposes: such as public health. No one wants the United States to be unprepared for the next pandemic. Interoperability – being able to track and share crucial information in real time – is how to ensure that doesn’t happen.
The federal government has an important role to play here. There are more than 50 state and territorial health departments throughout the country –with no consistent coordination in how they share health data. The industry is hungry for improvements here.
Our priority for the next year and beyond is to continue the onboarding process as a candidate QHIN under TEFCA. TEFCA is the future of interoperability. We invite any interested organization to join us or reach out and learn more about what makes CommonWell different.