We introduced the Interoperability Hero Initiative in 2021, and we’re pleased to recognize the following individuals as part of our third class of Interoperability Heroes! Learn more about those selected as Interoperability Heroes below, including words from their nominators as to why they are deserving to be recognized as Interoperability Heroes.

If you know a Hero that you would like to nominate, contact us to be informed when we open the next round of nominations.  Learn more about the Interoperability Hero Initiative here.

Q4 2021 Interoperability Heroes

Arkansas SHARE (Anne Santifer and Justin Villines)

Arkansas SHARE is a great example of how to use innovative standards-based solutions to improve interoperability across the healthcare community.

  • Standardized HIE Technologies that improve health plan and provider-to-provider communications. These interoperable technologies have enabled SHARE to effectively address the public health and complex care needs of vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Pandemic Reports and Services using multiple Notification reports, such as the 24-Hour Daily Hospitalization Reports, COVID-19 Laboratory/Vaccine Notifications, and 30-Day and 90-Day Hospital Readmission alerts to inform care decisions while mitigating risk.
  • Public-Private Partnerships and vendor collaborations that have contributed to improved population health, health plan communications, value-based activities, PCDH and PCMH programs, helping meet the broader needs of the HIE community.

By creatively applying standardized technologies that promote interoperability during the pandemic, SHARE has successfully advanced the delivery of data-driven activities aimed at improving the patient experience, reducing costs, and eliminating provider burden. The result was consistent delivery of higher quality interactions for health plans, providers, and patients.

David K. Butler, MD (The Chartis Group, Principal & Partner)

For decades, Dr. David K. Butler has worked tirelessly to ensure providers and patients have real-time secure access to data captured in the EHR.  He has served as a physician and informaticist for four large Integrated Delivery Networks (IDN) across the US – Geisinger (PA), Texas Children’s (Houston), Bon Secours (Richmond, VA), and Sutter Health (CA).  During this time, he has spearheaded and architected digital solution deployment locally, regionally, and nationally related to EHR and interoperable sending and receiving systems. He received Epic’s “Physician of the Year” (PAC Academy – 2013) and became a fellow of AMIA in 2020.

While service as Sutter’s Vice President of EHR Optimization and Transformation (CA), Dr. Butler prioritized and amplified interoperability work spearheaded by Dr. Steven Lane (Palo Alto Medical Foundation/Sutter Health).  A vision of sharing data securely with all organizations in California became a reality under Dr. Lane and Butler’s leadership.  During this time, Sutter shared over 12M patient records (a 3X increase from the previous year) with over 800 hospitals and 21,000 clinics including connections to VA live and SSA Live.

Kathleen Dahl, RN, and Cynthia Olson, RN (Minneapolis VA Medical Center)

Cynthia Olson, RN, and Kathleen Dahl, RN, are two experienced registered nurses serving Veterans as part of the Quality, Safety, and Value team at the Minneapolis VA medical center (VAMC). They are keenly aware of what Veterans need to have – better outcomes and improved care. Both were instrumental in using VA Direct Messaging when it was introduced in Minneapolis and championed its use throughout their VAMC. In the short time span of about 18 months, Olson and Dahl received over 3,300 Direct messages from two large community healthcare facilities. With Olson as the Veteran’s Health Information Exchange (VHIE) VA Direct Clinical Champion and Dahl as VHIE’s VA Exchange Clinical Champion, they teamed to prove that Direct Messaging can achieve improved event notifications and more efficient delivery of non-VA health information to Veterans’ charts. Olson said that before its introduction, she was “waiting three days” to receive notifications about changes impacting patient care. She said VA Direct provided them real-time information and that “Direct is a very good tool to use,” especially when it comes to follow-up care for Veterans and providing necessary consults in a timely manner. Dahl noted, “We love this [VA Direct] software! I get everything right then and there! Cynthia was the leader behind Direct! I am passionate about the future. I love it.”

Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD (Health Level 7 International, CEO)

Over the past 10 years, Dr. Jaffe has been a vanguard in the modernization of healthcare interoperability through the development and adoption of the HL7® FHIR® standard. He developed Partners in Interoperability which brought together industry leaders from the provider, payer and pharma communities. Partners in Interoperability led to the creation of FHIR Accelerators including the Argonaut, Da Vinci, Vulcan, Gravity and CodeX projects. Two additional Accelerators, Helios and FAST, we’re announced late last year and will address interoperability needs of Public Health and infrastructure needs of the health IT ecosystem. Dr. Jaffe serves on the Steering Committees of several Accelerators, providing them with strategic and policy guidance.

Dr. Jaffe’s engagement with academic, industry and professional organizations has led to the recognition, growth and adoption of interoperability standards, fostering innovation in patient care, reducing clinician burden and advancing population health. His promotion of interoperability goes beyond HL7 standards to collaboration with SNOMED International, CDISC, IHE, X12, WEDI, KLAS and CCHIT. His contributions to the biomedical informatics community were recognized by the American College of Medical Informatics, the American College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr. Jaffe has been a tireless champion of both interoperability and the communities that rely upon them to improve healthcare.

Katherine Lusk (Texas Health Services Authority, VP Strategic Partnerships)

As president of the American Health Information Management Association, Katherine played a key role in the organization’s efforts to improve patient identification and matching. She advanced patient identification education and advocated for the value of standardization. She also discussed the importance of using resources like the AHIMA Patient Naming Policy and the Project US@ Companion Guide.

She is also involved in the Texas Interoperability Collective, working to advance the adoption on interoperability in Texas, in part by working with national networks. She helped standardize CCDA content across vendor platforms via a collaborative approach with EMR vendors, health care providers and national networks. Additionally, she pulled together public health and communities on improving correction of identified data integrity issues, sharing of lessons learned, recommendation of changes to state consent process, and establishing a FAQ to be shared with community.

OpenNotes (Catherine DesRoches, DrPH)

OpenNotes, based at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston—a major Harvard Medical School teaching hospital—studies the effects of open and transparent communication on patients, care partners and clinicians, and disseminates its findings. For more than a decade, OpenNotes has worked with its collaborators to foster and evaluate the spread and implementation of shared clinical notes (“open notes”), and advance healthcare transparency initiatives in the U.S. and overseas.

OpenNotes began as an exploratory study in 2010 at three sites: at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, and Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. The demonstration study invited 105 primary care doctors to share their notes with 20,000 patients via secure, online portals. The study examined the effects of sharing notes on both patients and doctors, and found that a vast majority of patients report understanding and benefiting from reading their progress notes—and when patients can read what their doctors write, trust increases.

Twelve years after the launch of the first OpenNotes study a federal mandate required clinicians to share full medical records with patients receiving health care in the U.S. Open notes is the only component of the 21st Century Cures Act Interoperability & Information Blocking Rule accompanied by a deep evidence base supporting its benefit to patients.

The OpenNotes team has played a critical role in building the evidence base and momentum to support the sharing of clinical notes with individuals and their proxies. This work, carried out thoughtfully and methodically over many years, provided critical support for the Information Sharing requirements in the ONC’s 21st Century Cures Act Final rule, what many people know as the Information Blocking prohibitions. While various members of the OpenNotes team would qualify individually as Interoperability heroes, as a group they clearly stand out as having had a tremendous impact on information sharing to improve patient care and care coordination.

Sheryl Turney (Anthem, Inc., Senior Director)

As a Senior Director at Anthem, Sheryl Turney is responsible for administering Anthem’s data release policy and has held leadership roles in the acquisition and use of clinical health data.  Ms. Turney has represented Anthem on multiple state Health Information Technology workgroups as an integral part of the Anthem’s support of the State Innovation Model efforts.
Ms. Turney is member of the federal Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC) since its inception in 2018, and has participated in the following committees working to advance interoperability:

  • Trusted Exchange Framework Task Force, Member
  • Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement Task Force, Member
  • Interoperability Standards Priorities Task Force 2018, Member
  • U.S. Core Data for Interoperability Task Force 2019, Member
  • Information Blocking Task Force, Member
  • Intersection of Clinical and Administrative Data Task Force, Co-Chair
  • U.S. Core Data for Interoperability Task Force 2021, Member
  • Public Health Data Systems Task Force 2021, Member
  • EHR Reporting Program Task Force 2021, Member

Amy Shellhart (WellSky, Chief Solutions Officer)

Amy serves as the Chief Solutions Officer for Wellsky, now the largest post acute solutions provider that covers the entire post acute continuum. Part of Amy’s job is define, design and drive the incorporation of interoperability standards, including FHIR, query, DSM, HL7 V2 messaging, eMPI and others into the WellSky enterprise platform, called Interop IO. WellSky now has EHRs that represent every care setting in post acute. Each of the EHR product leaders and engineering teams define a roadmap for integration to the Wellsky Interop IO layer, which means the EHRs go from having limited to no interoperability to being completely interoperable across a multitude of standards and networks. Through the interoperability strategy Amy has defined for WellSky IO, she not only has driven connectivity to the networks and use of the standards, but more importantly, she is defining a cohesive set of post acute workflows that incorporate interoperability and exemplifies a leader that is moving interoperability from being a noun to a verb. This is what it will take for post acute and for all of healthcare to realize the potential of interoperability.

Jennifer Smith (CommonWell Health Alliance)

Jennifer Bosshardt Smith has served as the Chair of the Marketing Committee of the CommonWell Health Alliance since its launch in March of 2013. As a Cerner employee, she supported the successful launch of the organization and has kept the trains running on many fronts, as the non-profit grew from a handful of members to more than 80, from services live at 4 sites to more than 25,000; from hundreds of unique individuals in the network to more than 153 million unique individuals in the network across the country.

In addition to her role in building one of the most successful nationwide interoperability networks, Jennifer has been point on marketing the CommonWell brand including maintaining the website, blog, creating various promotional materials and overseeing successful CommonWell Fall Summits, HIMSS conferences and the always popular CommonWell TV.
She personifies the concept of “breaking down barriers to interoperability” by not only collaborating with competitors, but befriended them along the way. Since day one, she has lead efforts to bring the often abstract concept of interoperability to life by sharing individuals stories that illustrate how improving health data exchange can truly improve health care for the common good.

For Jennifer, it has never been just a job, her passion for her work is palpable and personal.

Andrei Zudin, PhD (Health Gorilla, CTO and Co-Founder)

Andrei is a Co-founder of Health Gorilla and their current Chief Technology Officer focusing on solving complex health data integration and exchanges using FHIR based clinical APIs. Under Andrei’s technical leadership, Health Gorilla has developed industry leading interoperability solutions that allow the entire health care ecosystem – patients, payers, providers, digital health solutions, and labs – to seamlessly share health data and aggregate each patient’s entire clinical history in one place.

Today, Health Gorilla is one of the leading Health Information Networks in the United States, has implemented the first state-wide HIN in Puerto Rico in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, and is one of the first organizations pursuing a Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN) designation under TEFCA.

Andrei also became a member of the Carequality Advisory Council in December 2020.

Andrei has dedicated the last ten years towards healthcare interoperability and is a true interop hero. He is an innovative leader and a trailblazer in the healthcare community, is highly approachable by his staff, and has a proven ability to take original ideas from inception to production.