It’s debatable which is harder: scoring a ticket to a Broadway performance of Hamilton, which just garnered a record-setting number of Tony nominations, or solving the healthcare interoperability challenge. We can’t work magic for the play, but this week’s HIT List does offer some insights on interoperability progress — along with updates on other trendy topics.

  1. Interoperability workarounds. Despite continuing aggravation about lack of interoperability, plenty of baby steps are being taken toward making data accessible by those who need it, which everyone agrees is absolutely essential to value-based care. For one, the largest EHR developers have promised HHS they will follow nationally recognized standards in future development and prevent information blocking. For another, large health systems are taking on the interoperability task internally, and public-private HIEs are connecting organizations in some states. Maybe one day, sooner than later, EHRs really will play well with others.
  2. Blockchain blockbuster? Initially developed to track international bitcoin transactions over the Internet, blockchain technology may hold a key to improved healthcare interoperability. Newer blockchain systems are designed to enable different entities to operate on the same application. In other words, blockchain provides a language everyone agrees to speak in order to communicate with each other. Check out how this could work.
  3. EHR gripes. It’s not exactly a newsflash that physicians are unhappy with EHR functionality, especially given the fact that more than half who bill Medicare are currently being penalized 1% of their 2015 payments because of meaningful use (or lack thereof). Physicians complain about loss of productivity, inability to find information they need, lack of interoperability and much more. See which EHR grievances top these 25 physicians’ lists.
  4. Smart fashion. A new report predicts smart clothing shipments will skyrocket from 968,000 to 24.8 million over the next five years, with healthcare expected to be a leading market. Of course, it’s hard to know if the smart clothing and body sensor wearables that measure biometrics and physiological data will catch on with consumers and top clothing brands. And there’s also the challenge of ensuring data accuracy — not to mention figuring out how to extract meaning from the 18 million data points per patient per day that body sensors are capable of generating.
  5. Telling telemedicine stats. The number of telemedicine visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries increased 28% annually from 2004 to 2013, despite reimbursement being limited to rural patients who received a live-video visit at a clinic or other facility. Harvard researchers found that disabled beneficiaries with mental illness, generally poorer and sicker than average Medicare users, were most likely to have received a telemedicine visit. There’s still plenty of room for growth — even with these increasing numbers, fewer than 1% of rural Medicare beneficiaries had the benefit of a telemedicine visit in 2013.
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