Interoperability chain must include patients

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
Interoperability chain must include patients

Achieving healthcare interoperability requires more than making disparate technologies work together; it also requires cooperation between various healthcare stakeholders.
These days that includes patients. As consumers spend more out of their own pockets on healthcare, and as technology enables them to have greater access to their data, it benefits providers to include patients in the data loop.
“We are a team, and part of that team is the consumer," former assistant secretary for health and national coordinator for health IT Karen DeSalvo said last year. “People have a willingness to free that data, so it can be put to good use.”
Indeed, some healthcare experts and policymakers believe patients should play a central role in making their health data accessible. Referencing a rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in late April that would make it easier for patients to quickly access their health records, Modern Healthcare’s Rachel Z. Arndt writes:

“The proposal, part of the massive inpatient and long-term care prospective payment rule, reflects a new notion of interoperability: If patients hold their own health data, the thinking goes, they could be the means of interoperability—the central hub tying together various providers and relevant parties.”

It only makes sense that patients are in charge of their own health data – it’s theirs, after all – but overcoming the technological and cultural barriers to patient control and access of data has been challenging.
Fortunately, evolving tools such as open application programming interfaces (APIs) and standards such as Health Level Seven International’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) are removing the technological barriers to interoperability, while competitive necessity is forcing many providers to do a better job of providing patients with access to their health data.  
Further, consumers are generating new health data that is being collected and shared by connected health and fitness devices. These consumer wearables are helping providers collect valuable additional health and activity metrics on their patients.
The combination of evolving standards, policy mandates, patient demands, and emerging technologies should continue to clear a path for healthcare interoperabilty. The end result will be more empowered patients and better healthcare.