The world is desperately in need of data in motion and our health depends on it. I’ve passed three days now at the HIMSS Conference in Las Vegas, NV and have been struck by how many organizations are paralyzed by their challenges with data stored down in silos, inaccessible for timely decision making, and unavailable to patients. Our world is moving fast, so why is our data so much slower?
One of the biggest challenges to keeping data in motion is the legacy systems that have been implemented over the past forty years. One of the greatest inventions and the biggest hurdles is the database. The methods once employed to capture useful information were an amazing step forward from paper, but have outlived their usefulness now that we’ve reached a stage of maturity where it is no longer impressive to capture, store and retrieve data.
Not only do many systems ‘sit’ on data, they are often not very good at sharing with others. In two separate discussion yesterday, the first between physicians who focus on information technology (AMDIS), and then later a panel discussion with the CEO’s of Kaiser Permanente, Geisinger, The Mayo Clinic and Intramountain Healthcare, both spent considerable time on the challenges of silo’d data and poor interoperability. The bright spot of the second discussion was patient access to their own health records but only in these more advanced healthcare systems.
Intramountain’s CEO told a great story about a patient needing urgent care being helicoptered from a city 400 miles away, but being inside the Intramountain network throughout, with complete data transparency so that by the time the patient was in Salt Lake City, they had been under continuous care (with continuous data) for the entire event. A doctor was even monitoring throughout using a mobile device. By contrast, a patient being transferred from a hospital across town initiates an electronic medical record only when they arrive at the Intramountain facility. The data necessary to make decisions only starts to come into play well into the care cycle.
Intramountain benefits from having one of the oldest Electronic Medical Record systems in the country and the benefits are obvious. Others on the panel were in the same position but they are exceptions to the healthcare rule.
It is great to have these examples, but most can’t tell this story. What does silo’d data and lack of interoperability between systems mean for us? It means the important diagnostic decisions, financial options, and best practice patterns aren’t available in the timeframe needed for action. The result is uninformed care and duplicated and wasted effort.
The frank fact is that software for electronic medical records isn’t serving the audience of patient, physician and the extended care community. Millions of dollars spent entrusting the solution to big electronic health record vendors hasn’t achieved the goal of information accessibility across the healthcare value chain. I predict the next wave is interoperability based on data in motion.