Interoperability: A Shared Story for Healthcare Technology Marketing

Andrew Moravick

If you’re a marketer in healthcare, and you have a healthcare platform or a technology solution with healthcare applications to promote, imagine that your offering is just a rock…

What you have is a simple object. Adjectives, measurements, functions or any efforts to paint or polish your offering are just surface-level veneers. Rarely is any object appealing just because it is what it is. Objects that connect to stories, though, make people pay attention.

A rock is just a rock… unless it’s a stone from which a boy pulls a sword to become a great king. Then that rock is pretty interesting.

In healthcare, or in any industry, a platform is just a platform, unremarkable from any other, unless it connects to a story. One of the biggest stories presently unfolding in healthcare, is that of interoperability. And for the healthcare technology marketing crowd, it’s a story much bigger than any one solution, but a story with much bigger upsides for those who can contribute to it…

A Short Story on Why Marketers Need Stories:

Taking a step back for a second, what makes stories (preferably, factual and still well-researched stories for healthcare), more effective than just the direct communication of facts?

Why should healthcare marketers find stories to tell or be a part of, instead of simply communicating product specifications, prices, and potential offers / packages to prospective buyers?

At best, people tolerate marketing messaging. Typically, most people will just tune out marketing. Occasionally, if it’s really bad, people will complain, unsubscribe, and/or demand some kind of apology or retribution for whatever variety of problem marketing caused.

Marketing does not, generally, operate in a world that’s (consciously, at least) receptive to marketing.

Instead, effective marketers find stories that matter to their audiences, and fit their offerings into those stories.

If typical conversations and experiences were like the baseline squiggles on a seismograph, a story would be a tremor, or an earthquake.
Stories produce telltale, distinctive, rising and falling patterns indicative of some kind of shakeup. Stories are powerful. They’re interesting. They’re a stimulus to which people are programed to react.

At the end of a story, there’s always something that’s changed since the beginning.
That’s why marketers need stories. We need something in the minds of our prospects to change as a result of our interactions with them.

The Beginning of Interoperability’s Story and Healthcare Technology Marketing’s Role in It:

Interoperability, that is, “the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data and interpret that shared data,” is a bit of a vaguely familiar outsider-type character in healthcare.

Some healthcare organizations have been able to accommodate it. Others have heard of it, but haven’t seen it for themselves. Others still may think of it only as a legend – something that could only be fantasy within the limitations of the world in which they operate. 

What interoperability can do, though, for healthcare organizations that are able to play host to it, is exciting. All four points of the quadruple aim can potentially be served by fostering interoperability in healthcare organizations.

A few examples (among many more possibilities) include:

  • Patient experiences can be streamlined with fewer questions, and more accurate diagnoses from data exchanged from primary care providers and specialists within a network. Patients’ wearable health tracking devices and mobile apps could even be integrated so that data may be able to speak for patient needs just as clearly as -- or even more clearly than -- the patients themselves. 
  • Provider experiences can be optimized by saving time jumping from system to system or entering data. Measured provider usage time in systems can identify risks of burnout. Insights delivered to providers can also make diagnoses, care planning, and other mentally taxing efforts less burdensome and more scalable.
  • Overall operational costs can be more accurately documented and managed down to practitioner-level activities. Efficiencies across processes and departmental synergies can be identified to better maximize profits.
  • Overall population health can be managed with data-driven precision via insights aggregated across patients and even hospitals and health systems. Warning signs for larger scale outbreaks of colds, influenza strains, or other infectious diseases can be potentially flagged in earlier stages so preventative measures and proactive response preparations can be made.

In short, interoperability is packed with tremendous potential. 

Interoperability Has Its Conflicts: 6 Barriers to Adoption:

Another key reason stories work so well is they mirror real life. Just because a hero, for example, has all the right stuff to save the day, that doesn’t mean saving the day will be an easy, direct, obstacle-free path. Life has its ups and downs, so do stories.

For Interoperability, there’s a particular group of hazards that have, thus far, hindered the full recognition of its potential.

These stifling six barriers to interoperability, noted by Healthcare IT News include:

  1. Finding a compelling business case
  2. Managing the complexity of multi-party information exchange
  3. Managing the complexity of consent and authorization of using information from that exchange
  4. Meeting the cost of technology acquisition and management
  5. Overcoming "technical difficulties" such as uneven adoption of semantic or transport standards
  6. Managing the impact on workforce, workflow and ongoing training

As marketers, five of the six barriers to interoperability are likely beyond most of our skill sets. Multi-party information exchanges, managing consent complexity, controlling costs for technology acquisitions, technical difficulties in general, and managing workforces aren’t areas where we traditionally shine.

Making compelling business cases, though… as marketers, we know how to make compelling cases of all sorts (not just business cases) as well as a Jedi Master knows the Force.

Right now, in the story of interoperability, this is our moment as marketers. By creating compelling business cases for Interoperability, thereby overcoming the first barrier, we unlock a power for Interoperability that can help propel it past the remaining five barriers. And that mystical, elusive power is…


With compelling business cases that show desirable varieties of ROI from interoperability, cash can flow to address the remaining obstacles to achieving interoperability. 

It’s hardly a hard jump to make for most healthcare technology marketers. For specific platforms or healthcare technology solutions, standard purchase evaluation-stage marketing materials often include ROI outcomes and other justifications for investment. Rolling these cases up to support interoperability which compounds on the value of any singular solution, is a huge win-win for healthcare tech marketers.

As marketers, though, the cases we make can’t just show why it’s financially good business. We also have the opportunity to show how healthcare businesses can do real, meaningful “good” via interoperability.

Healthcare Marketing’s Contributions to Interoperability’s Story:

The good news, there are already examples of marketing (and the marketed organizations) contributing to and/or benefiting from the interoperability story.
A few notable marketing stories elevated by also being Interoperability stories include:

  • The American Hospital Association, and other organizations are rallying their efforts and voices to try to expedite the expansion of interoperability in healthcare. Read the full story here.
  • CommonWell Health Alliance added to the interoperability story via an expansion of its Carequality Framework connectivity to help foster further interoperability for its members.  Read the full article here.  
  • Surescripts Network earns coverage for improving patient care delivery via interoperability supported by its EHR system. Read the full story here.
  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) gains annual, recurring attention for its Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) report. Read the latest news for 2019 here.  
  • CareCloud and Google make waves for their collaboration to boost interoperability and patient experience. Read more here.

Of course, more and more interoperability stories come to light on a daily basis, but clearly, big names in healthcare are seeing the big picture for what’s unfolding.

Making the Next Chapters of Interoperability’s Story Possible:

Again, despite all the promises of interoperability, it’s still in its early phases. The ideal ending for interoperability, someday, may be that it becomes so commonplace, like electricity; it doesn’t get a second thought. It’s just there, a part of every system by necessity. But like electricity, interoperability does need a story, like catching lightning in a bottle (or with a kite and a key for any historians), to power its progress forward.

For marketers, there’s a massive opportunity to associate brands as pioneers of interoperability, or providers of platforms paving the way for it, or whatever aspirational messaging around interoperability better marketing minds than mine can conceive.

As marketers in the healthcare information and technology space, most of the time, it’s the technology experts, or the healthcare professionals who contribute to the biggest advances in healthcare. In this case, though, by lending our story-telling skills to interoperability to keep the pages turning, marketing efforts can make a significant difference in advancing healthcare capabilities and experiences.

About the Author

As a Senior Marketing Manager for HIMSS Media, Andrew Moravick leverages extensive B2B & B2C marketing experience to oversee and optimize HIMSS Media's content marketing and demand generation efforts. In previous roles, Andrew has worked for Aberdeen Group, Snap App, PUMA, and Eloqua.

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