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Readers Write: Five Takeaways from The Sequoia Project’s Annual Meeting

December 6, 2023 Readers Write No Comments

Five Takeaways from The Sequoia Project’s Annual Meeting
By John Blair, MD

John Blair, MD is CEO of MedAllies of Fishkill, NY.


I recently attended the annual meeting in San Diego of The Sequoia Project, a non-profit that advocates for health IT interoperability, and was impressed with the spirit of collaboration and optimism as stakeholders look forward to taking the next steps toward making interoperability a reality.

Without a doubt, interoperability has been a top-of-mind subject for many years for many of us in attendance, but the issue has gained renewed focus recently, as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) are poised to launch.

QHINs are an essential component of The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), a new regulation backed by the federal government and intended to improve interoperability. TEFCA’s goal is to establish a universal floor for interoperability across the country by developing the infrastructure model and governing approach for users in different networks to securely share basic clinical information with each other.

In addition to QHINs, other key issues discussed included: interoperability use cases, the benefits of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), the unique challenges to health information exchange for public health, and how today’s patient experience can be improved leveraging existing technology and investments.

My five biggest takeaways include:

  1. QHINs will be quickly migrating customers from their current networks to the new QHIN networks.
  2. Although QHINs will be competing for customers, they plan to cooperate with each other as the networks become operational. They understand that a network of networks is only as good as the weakest network, and it’s essential that they help and support one another in day-to-day operations. Without cooperation, customer support will suffer and the overall success of QHINs will be at risk.
  3. Interoperability stakeholders are anxious to get the current uses up and running. These use cases include treatment, individual access services, payment, health care operations, public health, and government benefits determination.
  4. Although the treatment use case has been active for many years, there is still work to be done around data quality, quantity, and end-user workflow.
  5. Data usability is set to take center stage. A plethora of health data is already being exchanged, but its value is often limited due to issues with normalization, fragmentation, and usability. QHINs will help solve these limitations by driving greater accuracy and completeness of patient health data.

Open questions remain regarding the ultimate effect that TEFCA and QHINs will have and their ability to generate nationwide interoperability improvements. However, the energy and enthusiasm that were palpable at the Sequioa Project’s annual meeting will likely fuel efforts to overcome inevitable roadblocks as stakeholders work to address current and future regulations and advance efforts to increase the volume and utility of health information exchange.

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