As the United States got a new president on Wednesday afternoon, it also got a new National Coordinator for Health IT. Longtime industry veteran and interoperability pioneer Micky Tripathi was named to the role January 20 as part of a slate of new HHS appointments.
Tripathi has long been a familiar face as a proponent of standards-based interoperability – and an expert with deep knowledge of the nuts and bolts behind it.
He was the longtime CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, a pioneering group that launched way back in the pre-HITECH Act days of 2005 and became a national exemplar as the healthcare industry moved from manila folders to electronic health records.
Most recently Tripathi has been working as chief alliance officer at Burlington, Massachusetts-based Arcadia, which he joined this past April when the population health company acquired select assets of MAeHC.
MAeHC subsequently closed up shop this past June, having spent a decade and a half working alongside organizations “from across the healthcare continuum to support their meaningful adoption of technology,” as Tripathi said at the time, and playing “a major role in advising and leading various industry initiatives in interoperability, standards development, and health IT policy.”
In recent years, Tripathi has been a leader in standards development, sitting on the board of organizations such as HL7 and its FHIR Foundation, the Sequoia Project, CommonWell Health Alliance, CARIN Health Alliance, and others.
He’s worked for years with ONC on foundational interoperability strategies, including stints as co-chair of the joint HIT Policy and Standards Committee’s JASON Task Force, which focused on challenges around building a nationwide architecture for clinical care and health research.
In an interview about that work in 2014, Tripathi was clear-eyed about the many factors – technological and cultural – that had been hamstringing interoperability to that point.
“Up until now there hasn’t been enough demand for interoperability in healthcare,” he said at the time. “A lot of people have the perspective that there has been a negative motivation behind that: people wanting to hoard their data and not share it with others. I’m sure there’s some of that. But I think there’s a genuine lack of demand for a variety of other reasons.”
Obviously a lot has changed in the years since then – not least because of the transformational Cures Act rules around information blocking and patient access that have been enacted, some of which take effect in April.
But more excitingly, there’s been a flowering of new work on the technical side that Tripathi has been a big part of. In interviews with Healthcare IT News the past few years, he’s been enthusiastic about the possibilities of proliferating innovation from specs such as FHIR 4.
“FHIR’s emergence and rapidly rising maturity thus come at the perfect time because it offers tools to provide better interoperability experiences just at the moment that physicians are now demanding it,” he said in 2019. “Equally exciting is that FHIR is opening up new avenues of interoperability, such as exchange with patients through apps, and with organizations in other parts of the healthcare value chain such as health insurers, life insurers and life sciences companies.”
The healthcare industry is at a “signature moment in nationwide interoperability,” said Tripathi in another interview. “I’m very sanguine about where interoperability is and where it’s headed. You can decide whether that means I’m biased or bullish, but I think it’s more the latter.”
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