Breaking down the silos

Breaking down the silos

Exciting news from the US last week. The CommonWell Health Alliance, a not-for-profit trade association, has been formed with the promise of transforming the face of national healthcare. The headline act is to make health records easier to share and five major providers are coming together to create common standards.

In a bid to promote seamless interoperability and access to patient data across the healthcare system, these electronic medical record providers will promote common standards for sharing health data. It will mean that doctors can not only move patient records from one health system to another but also access relevant health records (pending patient agreement). A pilot program testing CommonWell Health Alliance’s plan will be conducted over the next 12-18 months, after which time the Alliance will be formally established.

Historically, a lack of interoperability among electronic health record systems and poor infrastructure for exchanging information have been the biggest barriers preventing the benefits of computerized health. The creation of the Alliance has been described as a matter of national importance by its founders and not a commercial effort but ‘an obligation’. They are to be commended for the herculean efforts that will be needed to digitize the content of an entire industry.

At IDBS, we are in a good position to witness how the siloing of health data in the US has been a major barrier to delivering connected healthcare. It is important that data interoperability standards are driven from within the industry. The Federal Government also has a key role to play in promoting this collaboration and incentivising interoperability, as it did with HIPAA.

There is more though. We need to aim for HiFi healthcare data sharing and collaboration. Aside from the debate around standards, which everyone agrees are necessary, we need to give focus to the quality of the patient data that is being stored and shared. High-quality, high-context data is a must. This will ensure records are not full of gaps or lacking in vital background details (context). This is a great and necessary first step along the road.