Plug-and-play in action at the Center for Medical Interoperability

In 2013, the Gary and Mary West Foundation and the Gary and Mary West Health Institute helped found the Center for Medical Interoperability, a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating the seamless exchange of health information.

The center seeks to achieve this goal through the testing and certification of medical devices that are interoperable.

Michael Johns, MD, chairman of the board of the Center for Medical Interoperability, said the impetus for the group and its mission stemmed from observed successes of the cable industry.

The cable industry, Dr. Johns says, early on harnessed the power of creating common standards which all cable companies could use while still remaining competitive. These standards led the industry to transmit Internet across those shared cable lines.

"We looked at that and said, 'That's a good model,'" Dr. Johns says. This model became the framework for the center's laboratory to certify and test devices that achieve the desired result.

Dr. Johns and the rest of the founding members of the center seek to establish a laboratory to develop and test solutions fostering interoperability. According to the center's website, the lab will mirror the healthcare environment in terms of physical space, equipment and information systems.

Currently, an interim lab focused on wireless testing is being developed, with plans for a 75,000-square-foot permanent site expected by the end of this year.

The end goal for the lab, and for interoperability in general, is the widespread access and use of plug-and-play interoperability, a task which Dr. Johns says lies more in the hands of health systems than maybe is realized.

"Ultimately the health systems have to buy these devices [and] agree to what they expect on the standards [we] should be meeting," Dr. Johns says. "If [they agree on] what they're looking to buy, the people looking to sell will start listening."

More articles on interoperability:

The 3 levels of interoperability in healthcare
Dr. John Halamka: 4 thoughts on MU, information blocking and interoperability
AMIA: 10 recommendations for using EHRs to create an interoperable health system

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