Moving Forward with Interoperability: How Patients Will Drive Change
What does interoperability mean in 2015? To many in the healthtech community, it’s a tired phrase—an aspiration we’ve been working toward for more than a decade that deserves attention, yes, but excessive hype, no.
While we have long been an active participants in groups of providers, industry professionals, patients and government influencers driving steady advancements in interoperability, this past year’s HIMSS conference demonstrated that the journey to a connected, integrated healthcare experience is moving faster now than ever before. With new players, investments, clinical and consumer digital tools that offer opportunities for improved health management, there’s a more urgent desire and demand to achieve interoperable healthcare. I’m optimistic about the promise of truly connected care.
Much of the recent interoperability conversation has been from the clinician’s perspective – how ubiquitous access to data across devices and systems has the potential to help provide continuous monitoring, earlier and more accurate intervention, and overall better patient outcomes. But as patients become more engaged in their own care and demand access to their information, the industry is feeling the pressure to move faster on interoperability.
The ability for devices and systems to seamlessly connect with each other and share data has the potential to enable a 360-degree view of the patient’s health, allowing clinicians to make faster, more responsive decisions.
However, while cloud platforms and wearables have improved patients’ engagement in their care, they have not created a shift in overall patient behavior, as fitness data without context is not always perfectly actionable. We will only see a sustainable shift in healthy behaviors when interoperability enables patients to have ready and simple access to their entire health history, allowing them to track the benefits of making healthier decisions.
For example, a patient with a heart condition might have a wearable sensor patch that continuously tracks and reports vital signs. Subtle changes in physiology that might signal an escalation in his condition could be preemptively reported to the patient’s care physician, triggering a phone call with medication advice or asking the patient visit his doctor. Before the patient arrives, clinicians have access to up to the minute information enabling faster and more responsive treatment and advice, perhaps preventing an unnecessary hospitalization.
Once hospitalization is prevented, the patient may begin to monitor his exercise and activities, which can also feed into the EMR, allowing clinicians to monitor progress, and provide timely intervention. This will especially improve the quality of life for fragile patients, who are so often just a missed dose of medication away from a trip to the emergency room. Access to this kind of data can empower them to take more control of their day to day lives through consumer friendly views of their clinical information.
I’m seeing some positive changes – such as the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC’s) recent interoperability roadmap, which is moving us in the right direction. I’m also seeing health IT professionals invest in interoperability beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics – to deliver connected collaborative care across the continuum from physician offices to urgent care to patient homes.
Partnerships will also play a big role – not just in achieving interoperability but also in all healthcare advancements. As healthcare continues to shift to an open, consumer-driven ecosystem focused on actionable insights, collaboration and engagement, we must leverage collective resources and shared talent to deliver better care.
Philips is excited to be presenting sponsor of the 1776 Challenge Festival, where leading startups from around the world are gathering in Washington, D.C., for a week of industry-specific panel discussions, pitch competitions and networking galas. There, I will be able to see firsthand what some of the most innovative minds envision as the future of health, and I am excited at the potential to leverage those insights for the greater good.