New Technologies are Solving the Last Mile of Interoperability

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By Florian Quarre 

In healthcare, gaining a comprehensive view of a patient’s health data is hard to achieve, in part because of the complexity involved in aggregating comprehensive medical records. Most hospitals use some form of electronic medical records (EMRs), but how those records are used, whether they are easily shared inside and outside of the hospital, and how they are aggregated across organizations remains a challenge.

Too often there’s a tangle of fragmented information silos, EMR vendors, coding standards and technical constraints. However, advances in health data technology are starting to solve interoperability concerns once and for all.

To better understand the complexity of the task, take EMR vendors as an example. While the ten largest EMRs hold roughly 60 percent of all medical records generated, the remaining 40 percent are divided among hundreds of smaller EMR vendors. Some hospitals use more than one EMR system, which means acquiring a single patient’s health data from just one hospital could require multiple EMR vendor connections. Even for those hospitals and providers using the same EMRs, there are no assurances that the same versions are in use, which leads to inconsistent records.

Then some of the systems allow for either a complete or just a partial access to the record. And finally, no matter what systems are in play, most of the records returned will be delivered as a printout for download, which prevents any form of immediate information querying and data analytics. 



When addressed traditionally, retrieving, processing and delivering health information is as complex in terms of permutations and combinations as a strand of DNA.

So how do organizations and individuals ensure that records capture the full, longitudinal picture of a patient’s health history? These records play a crucial role in the healthcare continuum, but procuring records from across the full scope of a patient’s life is an impossible task for researchers, providers, insurance companies, law firms and other stakeholders. Even patients themselves struggle to obtain and organize their own information.

The answer starts with choosing the right health data vendor. Working with a qualified vendor will help streamline the process and make the transition seamless. It’s important to consider the company’s access to healthcare systems, as this is the key to obtaining medical data on a national scale, as well as its access to clinical information, which can be achieved through technology integrations, embedded resources and field specialists. When selecting a health data supplier, pay attention to its approach to technology. By selecting an organization that is digital-first – e.g. use of open APIs, SaaS availability, etc., you can ensure the reach of information is far and deep and begin to feel more confident that you have a patient’s complete longitudinal record.

At the most advanced health technology companies, the solution begins at the point of exchange, utilizing Natural Language Processing  (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create smarter records through intelligent extraction of data from EMRs that is then aggregated into a longitudinal digital chart.

In essence, health technology leaders use sophisticated machines to gather and interpret the frozen data sets that come from EMR vendors, and create from them – often automatically —  a new, shareable health record. By applying AI and NLP (and other technology applications like Optical Character Recognition and Machine Learning), structure is brought to unstructured data, and a far more seamless flow of health information is born.

These kinds of tools exist today, and are designed for health plans, self-funded employers, life sciences companies and government agencies, which require broad access to clinical data across multiple departments and users. Together, these modern health technology solutions drive more powerful financial and clinical outcome-based models.

A large ecosystem of active solution providers is ready to consume more data today, and it is becoming more and more possible to participate in the shareability of health information, thanks to these modern health solutions and growing standards such as HL7/FHIR.

With the last mile of interoperability addressed using the above methodologies, the question for organizations seeking broad and comprehensive health data becomes clear: in what ways can these powerful data sets and analytic capabilities be used to advance the missions of payers, providers, patients and life sciences organizations?

There are real costs at stake in obtaining and organizing health information. When organizations lack the ability to aggregate broad and comprehensive data sets, the gap in medical data can thwart research advances, add to ballooning costs of care, and threaten people’s lives.

By bridging this information gap, health technology enables more efficient workflows, deeper insights and better healthcare. The systems are not perfect, and even better advances – a healthcare blockchain, for starters — are over the next technological horizon, but using the right tools has put the health technology industry closer than ever before to a far more efficient era in healthcare. 

Florian Quarre is Chief Digital Officer for Ciox.

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