Interoperability is vital in lowering healthcare costs and improving value
Last week three of the biggest names in American business—Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase—announced a new joint venture to provide better, cheaper healthcare for their employees. They said the new venture’s initial focus would be on technology but failed to give details.
They are right to focus on technology, it is the primary way to save on healthcare costs and improve health value. Investing in new digital services that support the patient process by breaking down health silos is the place to start. This means investing in telehealth services, personal health records or apps, virtual diagnostic services, perhaps also dashboards that show the hidden costs of medical services. Important for these new digital services is the need for seamless integration between healthcare providers, pharmacy chains, life sciences and insurers. It's no secret that Amazon is eying up the pharmaceutical distribution market and last October it received a number of wholesale pharmacy licenses, so those plans may be enveloped into this new initiative.
However, creating such a promising personal healthcare ecosystem will require interoperability. This is going to be an important issue to tackle in order to see sustainable long-term improvements in healthcare.
The internet already enables patients to seek online consultations when and where it suits them. You can take over-the-counter tests to analyze your blood, sequence your genome and check on the bacteria in your gut. Yet radical change demands a shift in emphasis, from providers to patients and from doctors to data. That shift is happening. Technologies such as the smartphone allow people to monitor their own health. The possibilities multiply when you add the crucial missing ingredients—access to your own medical records and the ability to easily share information with those you trust. That allows you to reduce inefficiencies in your own treatment and also to provide data to help train medical algorithms. You can enhance your own care and everyone else’s, too.
Improved healthcare interoperability is a top priority for providers, policymakers, and patients in 2018. The public and private sectors are working across the industry to facilitate seamless health data exchange between a multitude of health IT systems to coordinate care across various health settings. Years of healthcare interoperability initiatives, health data exchange frameworks, and health IT standards have yielded considerable improvements in proliferating efficient information exchange.
However, several challenges still bar stakeholders from achieving true interoperability for optimal care delivery and improved patient health outcomes. These include developing a national patient identifier, improving standardization and collaboration across the industry and ending information blocking and data sharing issues.
This recent announcement, however, brings hope as well as industry muscle to overcome these challenges and make real gains in the healthcare market by creating new personal healthcare eco-systems and new digital health services.