We recently sat down with Interop Hero, Katherine Lusk, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Texas Health Services Authority (THSA). We talked about the crucial role trust and secure information exchange has in the evolution of our dramatically changing healthcare system. And with more than 30 years of experience, Katherine has a lot to share — starting with this statement that really sets the tone for our conversation.

“The value of trust along the journey and through the fabric of our health care delivery is really pivotal to moving forward with interoperability.”

THSA was created in 2007 as a public-private partnership with the goal to promote, coordinate and support secure electronic exchange of clinical information in Texas. As a trusted role between public and private entities, THSA is a place of convening to facilitate and share trusted data.

Additionally,  Katherine served as the 93rd president of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) where she helped achieve many of the same goals as THSA. AHIMA is a global non-profit association representing health information professionals who work with health data for more than one billion patient visits a year.

Katherine is eager to share the knowledge she gained from AHIMA and THSA. Between her time with both organizations, Katherine has been working to make sure information is accurate, complete and available to all intersections of health care delivery — finance, technology, business and research.

Katherine’s perspective is truly one of a kind and since she’s spent so much time supporting trust within our industry, we wanted to hear what that means to her on a personal level.

“[Trust] means assuming good intent. Knowing that everyone is coming from a different view, but that we all want a healthier population for less cost. And that takes working together. No one person, no one profession, no one organization has all the answers. But trusting in one another, we can get there.”

Katherine brings to light the similarities between the mission statements of DirectTrustTM and AHIMA to make a point that we’re all building on the strengths of each organization in this space. She says smart organizations realize that building on trust is the key to unlocking the future we’re striving for.

We often think of interoperability from the technical side, so hearing Katherine call out the human elements of our work was refreshing. After all, people and relationships help advance the technical side, and vice versa. We wanted to know if there are parts of the industry Katherine challenges relating to the people component.

Katherine starts by saying, “health information is really human information.” Our information is personal and meaningful (it’s not just zeros and ones). She encourages the industry to focus on data integrity and understand the community being served. She’d also like to see an effort to diversify the development conversations. The more people that can offer up a wide range of perspectives, the more meaningful the conversations. And it’s those conversations that can lead to well-thought-out solutions that meet community needs.

Knowing Katherine is such a steward of trust, we wanted to hear about the success she’s had in facilitating trust in her own relationships.

We learn Katherine always assumes good intent and is calm in her delivery while focusing on facts. She understands everyone’s views matter. Katherine also focuses on the greater good and in making the world a better place. She takes her own interests out of the equation and does right by those who use and benefit from the work.

“What I would say for building trusted relationships is listen [and] push each other. It is OK to push back. It is OK to help your partners move forward. You don’t have to be afraid that pushing back on somebody is going to make them not like you.”

As an example, Katherine was recently working with a health information systems program and another Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendor. She pushed back to encourage them to engage more fully in exchanging information across the state of Texas. Once she began talking to them, while assuming good intent, she found issues they could resolve together. Those trusted conversations led to a solution that met Katherine’s expectations and strengthened their working relationship. What’s more, one of the organizations sent Katherine a kudos admiring her advocacy for data integrity. Never assume that pushing back will negatively impact your relationships.

Our conversation so far has highlighted the importance of collective wisdom. That and a hunger for continuing education are two things that make the interoperability space a force to be reckoned with. Knowing some of educational opportunities that were put on hold are now being scheduled, we wanted to hear what educational events Katherine is looking forward to. This year, she’s really excited for an in-person AHIMA Conference, as well as the 2022 Civitas and DirectTrust Annual Conference. (We are too!) There’s nothing like those live events to network with and learn from people from all corners of the industry.

As we close, Katherine offers a few words of wisdom. She encourages people to focus on data integrity in their organization by capturing patient’s names in a standardized way, logging addresses in project USA format, following data interoperability principles and encouraging the adoption of Direct Secure Messaging.

“Remind people that faxing is unsafe. Remind them that information received electronically (that is trusted) can be ingested into their EHR and drive down cost.”

Admittedly, it’s hard to remember these things in the day-to-day hustle. It’s important to take a moment and nudge people to keep all of these principles top-of-mind so we can help make a greater shift in the industry.

Thank you to Katherine Lusk of THSA for sharing her experience and perspective with us!

Learn more about the Interoperability Hero Initiative and check out our third class of Interoperability Heroes.

This post was contributed by Alyssa Foggia-Hamm.