Data Interoperability and Digital Health: Trends Having a Significant Impact on Healthcare Today

Siva Namasivayam
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Siva Namasivayam
The healthcare industry is witnessing a digital revolution that is being driven, in part, by the need for consumer-oriented health solutions that aim to provide the 21st century patient and healthcare consumer with the ability to have more control over their personal health data. Comprising this digital revolution is the convergence of technology trends in healthcare , including analytics, wearables, mobile phones and remote monitoring devices to name a few that have been developed to engage the consumer, ensure adherence, and allow information to be shared with physicians and other clinicians.

At the same time, this new digital health paradigm has become a driver for multitudes of data, also known as 'big data' that can be used to give payers, providers and consumers the information and insights they need to make decisions that impact health, wellness, care efficiency and quality. The challenge is this: with all this data originating from all the different digital sources available on the market today, how do we make this data interoperable, actionable and transparent in order to optimize care, improve the health of the population and decrease costs?

Healthcare Big Data Trends and Challenges
First, the good news: a recent Goldman Sachs report on digital health predicts that connected devices and other Internet solutions have the potential to save over $300 billion in costs for the U.S. healthcare sector. The report specifically focuses on telehealth and remote patient monitoring, two of the biggest areas today in digital health solutions. But there are also wearables produced by companies such as Apple, Fitbit and Jawbone; Electronic Medical Records (EMRs); and numerous other technologies, used either in a healthcare setting or as mobile devices (i.e. blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring devices) that generate scads of data. So here's the challenge: Where does all this data go? How is it used? How do you differentiate between good data and bad data?

Healthcare data is not generated simply from the EMR anymore. In addition to digital devices, there are additional systems that produce valuable information such as insurance claims, pharmacy data, care management and health outreach data, to name a few. With the voluminous amounts of information systems and devices, it is necessary for technology to enable applications that are easy to use, enable systems to communicate with each other, determine how information is processed and managed, and integrate information that is then used for the higher purpose of better health, better care and affordable care. To arrive at these goals, it is critical that the data gleaned from all the different sources available today is transparent, actionable and interoperable.

The lack of interoperability between disparate data sources has arisen as a key challenge to value-based or collaborative care. So the question now is, how do we take huge amounts of data from a variety of sources and make this data interoperable, meaningful and available for a variety of different uses? The answer lies in combining technology with plain, common business sense.

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