Sequoia Project launches new public-private interoperability initiative

The cooperative aims to bring stakeholders together to find new and pragmatic approaches to data sharing, and come up with ways to combat information blocking.
By Mike Miliard
11:34 AM

The Sequoia Project is opening up a new front on its push to solve interoperability. As a public-private collaboration comprising experts from disparate spheres of healthcare and technology, the new group, Interoperability Matters, aims to draw on their expertise to find new approaches to data sharing.

Interoperability is a large and complex challenge, with many different stakeholders with often competing imperatives and priorities. There are lots of reasons why it continues to be an elusive goal for healthcare.

The goal of Interoperability Matters is to bring together experts to identify discrete and specific hurdles to easier and more widespread data exchange nationwide, then prioritize them and working together to solve them.

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According to The Sequoia Project, which invites interested parties from across healthcare to participate:

  • Workgroups are formed of subject matter experts and critical stakeholders from across industry and government for each prioritized issue.
  • Each workgroup informs the Advisory Group with regular, virtual updates to solicit broad consensus on developing recommendations.
  • Recommendations of the workgroup are then shared with the public to seek input from those impacted by the work.
  • The final work product is a consensus-built resource and plan of action for the healthcare sector to leverage and implement to minimize or eliminate that particular barrier to exchange.

By gathering experts in technology, policy, business and beyond, the group aims to untangle those specific challenges one by one – starting with information blocking.

Information blocking, defined by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT as an instance when a provider or EHR vendor "knowingly and unreasonably interferes with the exchange and use of electronic health information," is a fundamental challenge to start with.

While some have expressed skepticism about just how widespread the practice really is, where it does occur there are potentially big patient safety risks. ONC has promised audits and potential fines for those caught doing it, and even some vendors have called on HHS to do more to fight it.

Interoperability Matters will first home in on information blocking, in advance of ONC's expected proposed rule on the matter, said Sequoia officials. It is then expected to tackle other specific angles related to data exchange challenges

"The pipes to enable health information exchange have been laid by organizations like Carequality, CommonWell, DirectTrust, eHealth Exchange and health information exchange organizations," explained Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project. "However, there are remaining real and perceived barriers to making exchange more effective and seamless – but not for long.

"Distinguishing legitimate policy differences from information blocking requires deep understanding of complex policy, technical and business issues," she added. "Our Interoperability Matters cooperative will focus on the practical implications of information sharing practices, and it will inform information blocking public policy."