After pausing her full-time career in financial technology to start a family, Jocelyn Keegan decided to rededicate herself professionally to “making the world a better place, as opposed to making rich people richer.” She took this personal mission to Point-of-Care Partners in 2016, and currently serves as Payer Practice Lead. A few months after assuming her current role in 2017, she also became Program Manager for HL7 International’s Da Vinci Project, aimed at advancing interoperability between payers and providers to reduce friction and increase security through a standards-based approach using FHIR. Needless to say, she has more than earned her designation as an Interoperability Hero.

Over the past five years, specifically with her work with the Da Vinci Project, Keegan has helped create 12 implementation guides that are moving toward final standards and are included in proposed federal regulations. She emphasizes that many people have been involved in these efforts, volunteering their time and talents beyond full-time jobs to promote interoperability that will benefit every patient, every provider, every payer, and every health IT vendor.

“I want to be clear. This is the work of many,” Keegan says, gently deflecting the accolades she has earned. “We started with the idea if we could do one or two use cases, that would be a big win. But when I think about the progress we’ve made, I am gobsmacked. We didn’t recognize fully that the healthcare industry would be chomping at the bit to adopt some of these technologies.”

Big Thinker Out to Change Healthcare

Although Keegan doesn’t describe herself this way, it’s obvious that she’s a big thinker who deliberately made the transition to healthcare because she believed she could make a difference. Keegan recalls reading widely during her career pause, including Dr. Atul Gawande’s Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science and books by Clayton Christensen, the academic and industry consultant who developed the theory of “disruptive innovation.” Both believe that better healthcare is possible through innovation, and Keegan came to understand that the connectivity problems she’d been solving in fintech were applicable to healthcare.

“I had spent the late ‘90s and early 2000s with that first wave of change moving to APIs across all industries, except for healthcare,” Keegan says. “My gut feeling was that there were problems in healthcare that could be solved, and that I could contribute. Point-of-Care Partners spends its time at the intersection where strategy, product development, and technical enablement collide with the work that’s happening in the industry from a policy and a regulatory standpoint.”

“The technology is here now to solve the real-world business challenges that payers and providers are having. I’m excited about where we are and the work that I get to do in industry.”

Interoperability Becoming a Competitive Advantage

On the road to true healthcare interoperability, it is vital to foster connections that allow IT systems across the care, claims, and payments spectrum to readily share data. Keegan says the Da Vinci Project is the logical next step to HL7’s Argonaut Project, which began in 2014 and expanded interoperability among EHRs and other health IT systems, using FHIR-based APIs and common standards.

“The competitive landscape is really changing,” Keegan says. “It’s not just about adopting technology to be compliant, but it’s about organizations that want to differentiate themselves from their competitors, be easier to work with, or be better partners. It’s also about organizations making themselves more holistic, owning the patient relationship across the whole care continuum.”

There’s no denying the unique nature of the U.S. healthcare system. In the early days of HIPAA and electronic health records, the impetus was on protecting data and not necessarily sharing it. Over the past 15 years, however, the federal government has been pushing to implement electronic records, from Meaningful Use to MIPS to the 21st Century Cures Act.

Savvy organizations, Keegan says, understand that interoperable technologies allow them to solve significant business problems, understand their patients better, and speed delivery of care.

More Help Needed to Make True Interoperability a Reality

As important as APIs and technology are to interoperability, people remain the driving force behind any change. Keegan was an individual contributor who realized her skills could be useful in the wider interoperability picture, and she encourages others to do the same.

“We don’t have enough people in the industry to do this work,” Keegan says. “It takes people in individual roles inside organizations deciding to get permission or take the bandwidth to say, ‘This day, I’m going to do a little bit more to do that extra work to move interoperability forward,’ because momentum is so key when you’re talking about these sort of large-scale influence-based projects.”

The work that’s happening today may remain relevant for 20 to 30 years or more, helping to cement meaningful ties among technologies and organizations.

Keegan believes that facing challenges head-on can spur growth and future opportunities.

“This is a great opportunity to dive in and get involved, because every type of contribution is needed,” Keegan says. “The water is warm, and everybody involved in interoperability is eager to onboard other people and take advantage of the knowledge that they’re bringing or the expertise they’re bringing as we learn how this new world of healthcare interoperability is going to work.”