Nearly four years ago at the 4th Annual Stewards of Change Conference a hundred senior human service leaders gathered from across the nation to discuss how we could help accelerate implementing information-sharing and interoperability. During the second day of the conference we watched the inauguration of President Obama together. It was an inspiring moment, many of us had tears in our eyes and everyone had optimism in our hearts. When we originally planned the conference we had no idea it was going to occur during the inauguration, nor did we anticipate that the nation would elect the first black president. It was indeed an authentic ‘kumbaya’ moment. As it turned out we couldn’t have picked a more poignant date.
Yet despite the momentum and optimism we cannot rest. The proverbial table has been set, a few appetizers have been served but the meal is still cooking. In other words, actualizing the vision of interoperability at scale will require doubling down our efforts to take full advantage of the opportunities that have matured over the past few years. New policies, guidance and financing are enabling change in a unique and once-in-a-career way. A few of the critical change drivers include HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health), ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) , PPACA (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and OMB Circular A-87 which relaxes the complex and vexing cost allocation requirements for cross utilizing funding to share technology costs through 2015. Together these changes enable and encourage state and local governments to build or modernize new systems that interoperate, share data and leverage investments to offer ‘no wrong door’ solutions. The results will be integrated eligibility, streamlined enrollment, better service coordination, robust data systems and flexible technology that can adapt to new requirements and change. The potential is real, but we must act now before the opportunities slip through our fingers.
Huge risks remain that could scuttle the opportunity of a lifetime. The next phase will require even more courage, data, creativity and chutzpah to challenge norms, invent new ways of doing business, collaborate more closely and act with conviction in the face of uncertainty, skepticism and the daunting forces of inertia, fear and status quo.