Bill Lockwood, Chairman/Publisher
Bill Lockwood, Chairman/Publisher

The Office Of The National Coordinator For Health Information Technology (ONC) has had interoperability as a top priority for healthcare data exchange for a number of years. However, with all the hype behind interoperability, it is still far from a widespread reality.

Evidence of this is an article in the Aug. 31 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Vaccine records testing hospitals.” Data being stored in different databases presents the problem of determining who has been vaccinated for COVID-19 and when. The city of Philadelphia has its own immunization reporting system, PhilaVax, but this does not capture vaccinations given in the surrounding counties or across the Delaware River in New Jersey. So accessing the city’s data would show only those vaccinated in the city. Consequently, since more than one database has to be queried, this is a time-consuming process. In other words, there is no interoperability.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is now going to hire contractors to upgrade its vaccination records system to allow a single on-ramp for access to a person’s vaccination history. If this were to materialize, what would be the role of the state and local immunization information systems to which pharmacies are now required to report immunizations? Or would these registries feed the CDC database?

State prescription drug monitoring programs found a solution to a similar problem. This was the impetus behind NABP PMP InterConnect. It allows states to share data. Now a single query can access a person’s opioid prescription history from more than one state. There is no need for a national database. There is an article in this issue on InterConnect that is worth reading. This is a success story on interoperability. The CDC should follow the path that prescription drug monitoring programs took. CT