Interoperable ApplicationsAround 2004, the term “Web 2.0” began to take off as a way of describing a foundational shift in the way that users interacted with the Internet. Web 1.0 describes the static interface of the 1990s with its lack of interoperability and sites mostly connected by hyperlinks. This was turned on its head with the rise of sites that were interoperable, easy-to-use, and promoted user content. This transformation, in conjunction with hardware changes like 2005’s iPhone, stimulated the growth of social media sites and apps.

In a similar vein, we are now seeing the rise of Healthcare IT 2.0. This shift is a move beyond simply connecting a health system to a digital EHR towards interconnected data sharing and applications. The possibilities of this shift are unknowable because it puts control in the hands of users. Like many applications on our smartphones, great ideas can now come from anywhere in the world and this ability is unlocked through the switch to a 2.0 structure. Let’s take a look at why this shift is happening now and the effects it will have down the road.

Why now?

A push from both lawmakers and providers has driven an increase in the two catalysts of Healthcare IT 2.0: greater interoperability and lower data blocking. In early 2018, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the draft Trusted Exchange Framework (TEFCA), which promoted greater interoperability among electronic health records.

Participation in the TEFCA is voluntary, but it seems that the industry is bending to its will. The framework threatens limited or completely restricted access to Medicare if providers do not conform to interoperability standards. Progressive companies are already planning the shift towards interoperability to come. For example, in February, AllScripts connected with the identity proofing company ID.me to better protect users in its online interface. This move is indicative of the move towards better and safer user interoperability with clinical services.

The technical component that is driving the shift toward interoperability is the use of APIs in digital healthcare technology. At their most basic level, APIs allow two web applications to interact with one another. This is accomplished through two main routes. APIs use robust, basic internet communication tools to provide safe and reliable channels of communication. They also use standard communication formats that make it easy for apps to “talk” to one another and everyday people to use the information.

Through government inclination and technical progress, interoperable data systems are now viable. The possibilities of the evolution towards Healthcare IT 2.0 are far-reaching.

How will healthcare IT 2.0 change the system?

More effective providers

At a very basic level, greater interoperability will aid caregivers by providing them the ability to pull information from disparate sources of information. As the description of APIs indicates, Healthcare IT 2.0 will make communication between various data applications smoother and physicians will have a far broader view of a patient’s medical history. For example, if readmission takes place and the in-home information is blocked then the acute care provider will have to guess at the source of the trouble. Greater interoperability between applications solves this issue and allows for more informed care decisions.

An “App Store” for medical information

The end of the road – or end of the rainbow, depending on who you ask – is a situation with complete interoperability between sources of medical data. This “App Store” idea is from the perspective of an individual patient whose medical information is spread out between numerous proprietary systems. In a world dominated by APIs, healthcare providers would be able to synthesize information from, for example, an in-house EHR, at-home application, and population health data to create the clearest picture of the situation. The “App Store” idea comes from the fact that information sources vary case by case. One individual may not have any in-home applications so the information can be curated to match what is necessary.

Greater compliance with value-based initiatives

A hospital’s ability to communicate with greater accuracy with in-home care applications is vital to its value-based care strategy. Being able to trust in-home care reduces the burden on providers, thereby reducing costs. In addition, more accurate in-home care limits readmissions, which are a large variable in the CMS reimbursement incentive structure. In today’s reimbursement environment, having high readmission rates is not financially viable.

Overall benefits

By increasing data interoperability and limiting information blocking, Healthcare IT 2.0 would be able to provide greater care for patients and improve efficiency in a value-based environment. The transition would also improve the return on investment of the analytics and IT systems already in place by giving them more information to crunch and make sense of. Healthcare IT 2.0 spells a clear future for an industry mired in complexity.

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Teddy Craven

Teddy is a marketing intern at Dimensional Insight. He is in his senior year at the University of Connecticut where he plays club soccer and writes for The Daily Campus newspaper.
Teddy Craven