The road to interoperability in healthcare has already been quite a journey. Paved primarily by the financial incentives of the Meaningful Use (MU) program, providers have rather quickly embraced electronic data exchange—but perhaps not yet entirely successfully.

That said, major hurdles still remain before the industry achieves truly seamless data exchange, but MU incentives will soon end. So, what’s next? Once the regulatory drivers such as MU disappear, what will spur interoperability forward?

The answer—at least in part—lies in two key emerging healthcare business-focused trends that may shed some light on the future of interoperability:

1.  Value-based care. Proactively managing the health of large patient populations—especially those with chronic and comorbid conditions—is one of the basic concepts behind the value-based care model. The goal is to provide timely interventions, improve outcomes and lower overall costs. To successfully achieve this, however, providers must collaborate and coordinate care across multiple settings. This will only increase the demand for interoperable solutions and information that can help clinicians meet new quality and cost measures.

2.  Payer participation. Payers today are acquiring, partnering with and even becoming healthcare providers. They are also building and buying the technology solutions required to enable clinical data exchange. While this trend blurs traditional lines between payers and providers, it also increases the need for payers to exchange patient information—both financial and clinical. Whether payers are acting as providers or entering into risk-sharing payment arrangements with other organizations, patient data from the point of care is essential for controlling costs and improving outcomes. Interoperability, therefore, will be a critical element for meeting both business and clinical objectives across the board.

With these two trends we are beginning to see the emergence of a self-reinforcing system whereby the financial incentives are aligned for both the payers and healthcare delivery organizations.

More and more, the true value of healthcare data comes from generating meaningful information that clinicians can act on to improve patient outcomes and lower cost. That is why interoperability is an absolute “must have” for providers, patients and healthcare organizations—one that will continue to grow, even without regulatory drivers such as MU. Both value based-care and increasing payer involvement will put pressure on the industry to achieve interoperability sooner rather than later; it’s an essential step in creating the foundation of any future initiative the industry strives to pursue.