Michael Planchart: interoperability contrarian

"Interoperability is just a means to an end: making information sharable."
By Scott Tharler
12:57 PM

Originally from Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela, a place lacking in both technology and money, Michael Planchart was initially rooted in interoperability by necessity: "We didn't have the option to not make information sharable. We had to make it work."

Planchart — widely known as the brains behind the #HIT100 list on Twitter — brought that knowledge and drive to the States as part of a very deliberate mission "to influence healthcare." He figured if he could help transform the health industry here, that technological experience could be exported back to the global community.

Throughout the past quarter century as he's evangelized and implemented healthcare technology solutions for companies of all sizes, Planchart has done stints in Maine's central coast, Florida, New York, Washington and Arizona. At least for the next few years he's somewhat settled, maintaining homes in both the Harrisburg, PA. area (where he works as Chief Architect for Geneia) and near Cincinnati, Ohio (where his family's located). Clearly, he's a man of many places.

It was while doing work for Microsoft outside Seattle, in fact, that Planchart first forayed into snowboarding. Although he still considers himself a novice on the slopes, he points out that he's quite at ease skiing (and fishing and doing other activities) in the water: "My element is the ocean, so I try to go as much as I can."

Back on dry land, Planchart has built a name for himself as @theEHRguy on Twitter and his own blog. He founded and moderates the crowd-sourced #HIT100 industry recognition list. And he'll be covering HIMSS15 as one of the show's elite Social Media Ambassadors.

He learned about the power of social media back in 2009. In trying to solve an important radiology interoperability problem, he connected with a key interop standards committee member on Twitter and networked his way to other "big guns" who were eventually able to help him solve the issue.

"From there on, it was my go-to place to follow everything that was happening in interoperability," he remembers. It organically grew into a veritable focus group of everything in healthcare he cared about.

Since then, he's noticed a theme in health IT: "We don't have a lack of interoperability because of a lack of standards and technology (HL7, DICOM, IHE)." Rather it's a lack of willingness. Vendors have been motivated by competition to lock in their customers. So they strike out on their own, develop one-size-fits-all solutions and in doing so create data silos.

Ironically, these same vendors participate in interoperability organizations — not necessarily to create interoperability, but as Planchart states, "to make sure that what gets improved doesn't impact their bottom line business objectives."

Planchart's solution requires a change in perspective. He suggests that healthcare data doesn't belong to a particular vendor or healthcare organization, but to the patients. And only the EHR software companies that recognize this and partner with each other will survive.

Planchart names these as the three most critical factors in healthcare's increasing complexity: 1) $60 trillion dollars in national debt, 2) $3 trillion dollars in annual healthcare costs, expected to grow six percent annually each of the next eight years and 3) our aging Baby Boomer population.

Speaking of population health, he asks us to consider the 117 million Americans currently living with a chronic disease — a quarter of which are living with multiple. "That's a big number that's going to require healthcare services,” he said. “And the only way healthcare can serve that huge population is by diversifying itself and creating models that are sustainable."

What about the Meaningful Use factor?

"The government pushing it may help; but if there's not a willingness in the industry to create this sharable backbone of healthcare information, then it will be very difficult to achieve — or it will be very painful and the results might be mediocre,” he said, adding that the true answer lies in our approach to data analysis. "We don't have to understand the data from a particular patient or disease, but from a collective of patients and a combination of diseases. We have to treat them in a holistic way. And the only way to do that is through the sharing of the data between the care providers."

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