Recently DirectTrust™ named Theresa Bell, Kno2’s co-founder, president, and chief technology officer, an Interoperability Hero for the organization’s inaugural award program.

Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser, Director of Communications at DirectTrust, sat down with Therasa to learn more about Kno2 and the hero herself and walked away with her thoughts on interoperability and disrupting the status quo.


Disrupting the Status Quo

“Kno2 is all about disruption. What drives us is getting to the route of the problem,” says Therasa. “We [healthcare industry] are billions of dollars in and by argument, we’ve certainly made progress, but we should be a lot further along than we are. We believe a foundational piece is connectivity. We don’t believe we actually do interoperability as a company, we enable interoperability in the people that are engaging with the end user. We actually drive connectivity.”

Bell shares that they believe Kno2 to be a healthcare utility, as unsexy as that may sound, as she chuckles. And Kno2 wants to be the best healthcare utility. Bell explains that we must make it easy for providers, solution vendors, software vendors, hardware vendors, healthcare IT vendors, EHR vendors — whoever it may be — to connect and get connected to the healthcare ecosystem. Connectivity should be as quick, easy, and natural as making a call or sending an email from your mobile phone.

“People don’t care how they communicate; they just want it to happen,” says Bell.

She explains, They don’t care how their mobile phone works and what network they’re using, where it goes, what wireless protocols are used. Just make sure I have it, it sticks and it stays, and I can communicate.

“That’s how we see connectivity; make it easy, make it affordable, make it everywhere — and we’ll start to see disruption in the communication of health information.”

Leverage what we have and improve upon it

Kno2 doesn’t succumb to the latest craze. Therasa explains how healthcare is notorious for that — where the next latest and greatest thing is going to solve the problem, and we are going to see it solved through the latest standard or initiative—maybe, but we have yet to see that yet. 

“We need to take stock of what we have and make it better. We are always letting perfection get in the way of progress, which continues to create chaos in the industry.” 

As an aggregator of healthcare networks, Kno2 is actively involved in DirectTrust, CommonWell and Carequality communities. Because of this unique perspective, Therasa was asked to provide some insights into the future of what is next in healthcare. 

“Meaningful Use may have driven a lot of the activity around Direct messaging early on, but the nationwide framework that it created cannot be overlooked.”

We shouldn’t step away and try to do it again somewhere else. We need to expand the usage outside of referrals and transitions of care and get it in the hands of the end users so they understand the opportunity they have in front of them today. Therasa explains that what the industry tends to do is focus on semantic interoperability, albeit critically important, but meanwhile we have 70% of the transactions appearing on a paper fax machine. Somewhere in the middle we’ve got something missing — and again, we are letting perfection get in the way of progress.

Carequality has demonstrated a lot of value with document query and we’ve seen a lot of growth there.  Now we have incorporated FHIR, with a huge opportunity with FHIR-based transactions, but let’s make sure that one doesn’t supersede the other. 

“It’s really the combination of all the technologies that brings true value.”

Therasa believes we should maximize all these frameworks and with the  incorporation of new protocols and standards, but not walk away from them because it doesn’t make sense for the healthcare community at large. 

“We’ve spent too much money, spent too much time, learned too much, so let’s progress what we have.”

The next opportunity for interoperability

In a recent interview with Jitin Asnaani, he and Kathryn joked about when interoperability would stop trending at HIMSS, so she asked Therasa what is the next pressing opportunity for interoperability? 

“I may be a little controversial, but I honestly hope nothing. I hope we take stock of what we have and maximize it. We need to break the cycle of the next latest and greatest thing and improve what we have for every expanding use cases.”

 An example she provides was the recent work done on ADT Event Notifications. She hopes we realize the work that was put into this by the HISPs and EHR vendors and it is maximized further for things such as out-of-range lab results. When interoperability stops trending at HIMSS, that will be a great day because that means that it is something that is just occurring.  The reason it continues to trend is because it hasn’t been solved yet. 

“I always say when interoperability moves from a noun to a verb; then we know that we’re making progress in the industry,” says Bell. 

Bell packs a lot into this 20-minute interview: disrupting the status quo, her view on healthcare standards, including a prediction on when we will know we’ve achieved interoperability and what advice she has for the industry. Watch the full interview here.

 About DirectTrust
DirectTrust is a non-profit healthcare industry alliance created to support secure, identity-verified electronic exchanges of protected health information (PHI) between provider organizations, and between providers and patients, for the purpose of improved coordination of care. The
Interoperability Hero Initiative was established to recognize organizations, teams, and individuals advancing interoperability across the healthcare ecosystem.