Medical interoperability is health care’s Achilles heel that, unless solved, will put the industry in a backseat position in figuring out solutions to a variety of tech problems, experts said.
Medical interoperability is health care’s Achilles heel that, unless solved, will put the industry in a backseat position while the government or Millennial innovators take the lead in figuring out solutions to a variety of tech problems, speakers at the panel said.
Health care technology, be it machines or software, is largely disconnected. It’s not the plug-and-play tech that allows people to save files on a USB drive to open on any computer.
Interoperability, noted moderator Ed Cantwell, executive director of the Center for Medical Interoperability, carries different meanings for different people and companies. In short, it’s the ability to connect, sync and harness technology, and the data it generates, with seamless exchange.
“You’ll know when you have it,” Cantwell said. “You’ll know when you don’t have it.”
The industry doesn’t have it.
Dr. Mike Schatzlein, Ascension Health’s senior vice president and group ministry operating executive, said that one nurse described the intensive care unit, with all its unconnected machines, and accompanying cords, as a “war zone.”
Outfitting a facility with technology is expensive, which Schatzlein said is counter to initiatives to push down the cost of care. Modernizing and integrating the tech system is going to be necessary for precision medicine — when treatment is tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.
Cantwell is leading the Center for Medical Interoperability, a new organization headquartered in Nashville, that is building a lab and bringing together leaders of industry heavyweights to find a solution. Schatzlein is on the board of the Center, along with HCA’s R. Milton Johnson, Vanderbilt University’s Dr. Jeffrey Ballser, LifePoint Health’s William Carpenter III and Community Health Systems’ Wayne Smith.
Thinking about the future business model is challenging right now because success is dependent upon harnessing the data, said Burke.
“He who has the data or she who has the data will win,” said Burke.
“We would rather there be a private sector solution. … Whether you’re conservative or liberal you probably don’t want the government in this,” said Schatzlein, alluding to Big Brother concerns that could arise if the government is heavily involved in a solution.
Burke wants the industry to find a way to assign a single patient ID to each person so care is more easily matched to the right person. Federal efforts have thus far failed, he said.
A person’s medical record is strewn between many providers and facilities in different formats, ranging from paper to electronic files that don’t transfer. Burke said Cerner is passionate about easing the process of matching files and care to the person to improve treatment and outcomes as well as manage the information that will be necessary under a population health model.
“The industry has solved this in every other space,” said Burke. “It’s up to the collective ‘we’ to get our stuff together.”
Reach Holly Fletcher at 615-259-8287 or on Twitter @hollyfletcher.