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Healthcare Data Standards Tweetstorm from Arien Malec

Posted on May 20, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you don’t follow Arien Malec on Twitter, you should. He’s got strong opinions and an inside perspective on the real challenges associated with healthcare data interoperability.

As proof, check out the following Healthcare Standards tweetstorm he posted (removed from the tweet for easy reading):

1/ Reminder: #MU & CEHRT include standards for terminology, content, security & transport. Covers eRx, lab, Transitions of Care.

2/ If you think we “don’t have interop” b/c no standards name, wrong.

3/ Standards could be ineffective, may be wrong, may not be implemented in practice, or other elts. missing

4/ But these are *different* problems from “gov’t didn’t name standards” & fixes are different too.

5/ e.g., “providers don’t want 60p CCDA documents” – data should be structured & incorporated.

6/ #actually both (structured data w/terminology & incorporate) are required by MU/certification.

7/ “but they don’t work” — OK, why? & what’s the fix?

8/ “Government should have invested in making the standards better”

9/ #actually did. NLM invested in terminology. @ONC_HealthIT invested in CCDA & LRU projects w/ @HL7, etc.

10/ “government shouldn’t have named standards unless they were known to work” — would have led to 0 named

11/ None of this is to say we don’t have silos, impediments to #interoperability, etc.

12/ but you can’t fix the problem unless you understand it first.

13/ & “gov’t didn’t name standards” isn’t the problem.

14/ So describe the problems, let’s work on fixing them, & abandon magical thinking & 🦄. The End.

Here was my immediate response to the tweetstorm:

I agree with much of what Arien says about their being standards and the government named the standards. That isn’t the reason that exchange of health information isn’t happening. As he says in his 3rd tweet above, the standards might not be effective, they may be implemented poorly, the standards might be missing elements, etc etc etc. However, you can’t say there wasn’t a standard and that the government didn’t choose a standard.

Can we just all be honest with ourselves and admit that many people in healthcare don’t want health data to be shared? If they did, we’d have solved this problem.

The good news is that there are some signs that this is changing. However, changing someone from not wanting to share data is a hard thing and usually happens in steps. You don’t just over night have a company or individual change their culture to one of open data sharing.

Vice President Joe Biden Speaks at Health Datapalooza

Posted on May 10, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve always wanted to attend Health Datapalooza. It seems like a great event and has a really amazing group of people. However, it’s always in DC (at least so far) and I didn’t want to travel. So, I’ve had to follow along from home watching the #hdpalooza hashtag. There’s been a lot of great insights into healthcare and what’s happening with healthcare.

One session I really wanted to see was Vice President Joe Biden’s keynote. The good thing is that ePatient Dave recorded it on his iPad and made it available:

Considering Biden’s involvement in the Cancer Moonshot and his own personal experience in the healthcare system taking care of his son, he provides some great perspective.

Health Data Sharing and Patient Centered Care with DataMotion Health

Posted on April 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Now that the HIMSS Haze has worn off, we thought we’d start sharing some of the great video interviews we did at HIMSS 2016. In this case, we did a 3 pack of interviews at the DataMotion Health booth where we got some amazing insights into health data sharing, engaging patients, and providing patient centered care.

First up is our chat with Dr. Peter Tippett, CEO of Healthcelerate and Co-Chairman of DataMotion Health, about the evolution of healthcare data sharing. Dr. Tippett offers some great insights into the challenge of structured vs unstructured data. He also talks about some of the subtleties of medicine that are often lost when trying to share data. Plus, you can’t talk with Dr. Tippett without some discussion of ensuring the privacy and security of health data.

Next up, we talked with Dennis Robbins, PHD, MPH, National Thought Leader and member of DataMotion Health’s Advisory Board, about the patient perspective on all this technology. He provides some great insights into patients’ interest in healthcare and how we need to treat them more like people than like patients. Dr. Robbins was a strong voice for the patient at HIMSS.

Finally we talked with Bob Janacek, Co-Founder and CTO of DataMotion Health, about the challenges associated with coordinating the entire care team in healthcare. The concept of the care team is becoming much more important in healthcare and making sure the care team is sharing the most accurate data is crucial to their success. Learn from Bob about the role Direct plays in this data sharing.

Thanks DataMotion Health for having us to your booth and having your experts share their insights with the healthcare IT community. I look forward to seeing you progress in your continued work to make health data sharing accessible, secure, and easy for healthcare organizations.

The Challenge of Patient Identification and Patient Matching

Posted on March 11, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A little bit before HIMSS, Healthcare Scene had the chance to sit down with a panel of experts on patient identification and patient matching, but I wasn’t able to post that interview until now. This is such an important topic, so I was happy to learn from some real experts in the space.

In this interview we talk over the challenges associated with matching patients in healthcare and the damage that’s done when you don’t match the right patient. We also talk about the solutions to the patient identification and matching problem including the impact a national patient identifier would have on the problem. Finally, we talk over CHIME’s $1 million National Patient ID challenge.

Here’s a look at those who participated in the discussion:

If you’re interested in the challenge of patient identification and patient matching in healthcare, then you’ll enjoy this discussion:

Also, after the more formal discussion we take some questions from the live audience in what we call the “after party.” Plus we even dusciss Beth Just’s new alter ego. Finally, we dive in deeper on the topic of patient identification and matching:

Communal Themes Between Behavioral Health and General Healthcare – #NatCon16

Posted on March 7, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Instead of getting a break after HIMSS, I’m doing back to back conferences as I attend the National Council for Behavioral Health’s NatCon Conference in Las Vegas. If you’re following along at home, the twitter stream for the event is #NatCon16 and is full of a ton of gems from the conference.
Chris Matthews and John Lynn at NatCon
Today I got the chance to hear and meet two of the keynote speakers: Chris Matthews and @KevinMD. Chris Matthews provided a lot of great insights into the political environment and a lot of amazing insider stories. My biggest takeaway from his talk is that we’re stuck in a massive quagmire and I don’t see much of that changing in the future. Presidential candidates can make all the promises they want, but they mean nothing if they don’t have the political support and finances to pay for it. @KevinMD was great to meet and hear talk about the benefits of using social media. Of course, he was mostly preaching to the choir for me. However, I’m sure that his comments were extremely eye opening for many in the audience.
KevinMD and John Lynn
Besides these two keynotes, I attended a few different sessions in the tech track of the conference. The most surprising thing to me was how similar these sessions were to any sessions you might have in any healthcare IT conference. This wasn’t really shocking, but it was a surprise that the messages and challenges were so much the same. Here are a few examples:

Third Party App Integration with EHRs
In one session, the vendors were talking about their inability to integrate their behavioral health apps into the various EHR software. They all said it was on the roadmap, but that there wasn’t an easy way for them to make it a reality. One of them appropriately called for EMR customers to start demanding that their EHR vendors open up their systems to be able to integrate with these third party apps.

Fear of Social Media
I usually find at conferences that this breaks out into two groups. One group loves social media, embraces it and benefits from it. The other group is totally afraid of the repercussions of using it. @KevinMD offered some great insights on how to overcome this fear. First, don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say in a crowded hospital hallway. Second, start by using something like LinkedIn or Doximity which is a more private type of social media and are both professional networks. The real key I’d suggest is that you should own your brand. Don’t leave your brand image up to other people.

Business Models
There was a lot of discussion around various uses of technology in behavioral health and the need for the business models to catch up with the technology. Many would love to use all these technological advances, but they aren’t sure how they’re going to get paid for doing so.

I’m sure I could go on and on. I know that many in the general medical field look at behavioral health as a totally different beast. No doubt there are some differences in behavioral health, but I think that we’re more alike than we are different. Looking forward to learning even more over the next two days.

Will the Disconnected Find Interoperability at HIMSS 2016? Five Scenarios for Action!

Posted on February 28, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Donald Voltz, MD.
Donald Voltz - Zoeticx

With the yearly bluster and promise of HIMSS, I still find there have been few strides in solving interoperability. Many speakers will extol the next big thing in healthcare system connectivity and large EHR vendors will swear their size fits all and with the wave of video demo, interoperability is declared cured.  Long live proprietary solutions, down with system integration and collaboration. Healthcare IT, reborn into the latest vendor initiative, costing billions of dollars and who knows how many thousands of lives.

Physicians’ satisfaction with electronic health record (EHR) systems has declined by nearly 30 percentage points over the last five years, according to a 2015 survey of 940 physicians conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American EHR Partners. The survey found 34% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR systems, compared with 61% of respondents in a similar survey conducted five years ago.

Specifically, the survey found:

  • 42% of respondents described their EHR system’s ability to improve efficiency as difficult or very difficult;
  • 43% of respondents said they were still addressing productivity challenges related to their EHR system;
  • 54% of respondents said their EHR system increased total operating costs; and
  • 72% of respondents described their EHR system’s ability to decrease workload as difficult or very difficult.

Whether in the presidential election campaign or at HIMSS, outside of the convention center hype, our abilities are confined by real world facts.  Widespread implementation of EHRs have been driven by physician and hospital incentives from the HITECH Act with the laudable goals of improving quality, reducing costs, and engaging patients in their healthcare decisions. All of these goals are dependent on readily available access to patient information.

Whether the access is required by a health professional or a computers’ algorithm generating alerts concerning data, potential adverse events, medication interactions or routine health screenings, healthcare systems have been designed to connect various health data stores. The design and connection of various databases can become the limiting factor for patient safety, efficiency and user experiences in EHR systems.

Healthcare Evolving

Healthcare, and the increasing amount of data being collected to manage the individual as well as patient populations, is a complex and evolving specialty of medicine. The health information systems used to manage the flow of patient data adds additional complexity with no one system or implementation being the single best solution for any given physician or hospital. Even within the same EHR, implementation decisions impact how healthcare professional workflow and care delivery are restructured to meet the constraints and demands of these data systems.

Physicians and nurses have long uncovered the limitations and barriers EHR’s have brought to the trenches of clinical care. Cumbersome interfaces, limited choices for data entry and implementation decisions have increased clinical workloads and added numerous additional warnings which can lead to alert fatigue. Concerns have also been raised for patient safety when critical patient information cannot be located in a timely fashion.

Solving these challenges and developing expansive solutions to improve healthcare delivery, quality and efficiency depends on accessing and connecting data that resides in numerous, often disconnected health data systems located within a single office or spanning across geographically distributed care locations including patients’ homes. With changes in reimbursement from a pay for procedure to a pay for performance model, an understanding of technical solutions and their implementation impacts quality, finances, engagement and patient satisfaction.

Moving from a closed and static framework to an open and dynamic one holds great potential while requiring an innovative look at how technology is used as a tool to connect the people, processes and data. Successful application and integration of technology will determine future healthcare success. Although the problems with healthcare data exchange have not been solved, numerous concepts have been proposed on how to solve these challenges.

Connecting the Disconnected

Currently, healthcare data flow is disconnected. Understanding the current and future needs of patients and healthcare professionals along with how we utilize the technology tools available to integrate data into a seamless stream can bring about an enhanced, high-quality, efficient care delivery model.  One successful integration example, middleware, has been used for years to integrate data in financial and retail organizations with its simple open technology.

One of the leaders in middleware integration is Zoeticx, a healthcare IT system integrator who integrates the data traffic and addresses, adding the missing components to connect, direct and act upon the healthcare data flow.  This technology helped one hospital struggling with the typical EHR interoperability plaguing most healthcare facilities connect multiple EHR systems.  In addition, the health-care facility used middleware to identify a new revenue stream from CMS reimbursements for patient wellness visits while also improving patient care.

Accessing patient information from EHR’s and other patient health data repositories is critical for patient care. The development of tools and strategies to enhance the patient experience, improve quality and innovation of the care delivery model requires an understanding of how data is accessed and shared.  Current EHR’s have employed numerous ways to extract patient data, each of which brings opportunities and challenges. Here are a few examples to ask about at HIMSS.

The Critical Care Team – Distributed Care

The critical care environment is a challenging one with numerous healthcare professionals teaming up to manage and care for patients. Delays in addressing critical issues, lab values or other studies can negatively impact these patients or lead to redundancy and inefficiencies which increase costs without impacting outcomes. Coordinating care between the various care team members can be a challenge.

The medical record and the nursing flow sheet had traditionally been the platform for communication and understanding the trajectory of care. With the incorporation of the electronic medical record, things have changed. EHR’s bring along new constraints in caring for critical patients while at the same time bring about potential to enhance care delivery through the improvement in communication and management of these patients.

Chronic Care Management

There is a growing prevalence of US adult patients who are managing two or more chronic medical conditions. Governmental and commercial insurance providers have embraced this trend by introducing chronic care management (CCM) programs in an effort to better manage these patients so as to limit costly hospital admissions and improve quality of life.

There are numerous barriers to engaging physicians and patients in the management of chronic health conditions. One of the findings from a recent survey of chronic care management by health plan was how improvement in coordination of care between multiple physicians and other healthcare professionals can positively impact the care received and improve utilization. With commercial and governmental incentives, development and implementation of CCM management tools that interface with EHR’s and connect patients and professionals can enhance care delivery in this expanding population of patients.

Care Transitions

Patients admitted to the hospital for scheduled procedures or the unexpected management of a medical issue are at risk of being readmitted for preventable issues that develop following discharge.  For aging patients with multiple chronic conditions, enhanced communication to limit misunderstandings, conflicts in disease management and compliance with medications are critical as they move from hospitals to intermediate care settings and ultimately back home. Management of these critical care transitions depend on communication of patient data, the meaning ascribed to this data by the primary care physician along with those who managed these patients in the hospital becomes a critical component in care quality, patient satisfaction and to address preventable readmissions.

Healthcare professionals have emerged to manage many aspects of patient care and are dependent on access to patient data which is often spread between EHR’s and other health data systems. Connecting and sharing this information plays a role in how these patients are managed. Development of clinical pathways that integrate and translate evidenced-based medicine into the care delivery model is a critical component to the management of care across transitions.

Patient data, treatment plans and monitoring approaches to chronic conditions and underlying risks must be integrated and communicated between patients and healthcare professionals. The complexity of healthcare and the distributed care-team model makes this more critical now than ever before. Understanding data flow between all members of the care team, including patients and their family, becomes key in the development of strategies to achieve high quality, cost effective and engaging solutions that ultimately impact outcomes.

The Annual Health Screen

Preventative care is an expanding area of medicine with the goal of trying to control US healthcare costs. In 2011, The Affordable Care Act established the Annual Wellness Visit for Medicare beneficiaries. The purpose of this initiative is to perform an annual health risk assessment and identify all of the healthcare professionals caring for a beneficiary. By identifying risks and care professionals, coordination of care and risk mitigation can be put in place.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is promoting this service in an effort to enhance patient care, reduce unexpected care and reduce healthcare costs. With an expansive list of healthcare professionals who can perform the Annual Wellness Visit, a critical component in implementing this service hinges on communication and the sharing of the information obtained. Understanding and connecting patients, professionals, and their health data into a unified, accessible system must be managed.

Personalized Health

The landscape of patient health data is expanding. Personalized health and wellness trackers, genetic variants influencing risks for chronic conditions and pharmacogenetics, are all revealing new biologic pathways that will impact how care is delivered in the future. Systematically integrating these disparate pieces of data is becoming critical to translate individual disease risk and treatment recommendations. Emerging uses of personalized data will impact how we store, access and use this data for personalized diagnosis and management of disease.

Solving the technical challenge of accessing the data, development of decision-support tools and visually displaying the results to physicians and patients who will ultimately act upon the findings is being actively developed. How these new technologies are integrating into clinical medicine will impact their use and the engagement of all those involved. Exploring the potential ways to integrate emerging technologies into current EHR’s becomes critical to the future of healthcare delivery.

The process of healthcare delivery, use of data to drive decisions and employing various technological tools have become interdependent components that hold great potential for impacting quality of care. Gaining an understanding of the clinical needs, designing processes that meet these patient needs while incorporating evidence-based decision support has become a critical component of healthcare delivery. Understanding the current thinking, available technology and emerging solutions to the challenges we face with data flow and communication is the first step to developing innovative and impactful solutions.

Step up at HIMSS and ask the presenter how they plan to address these needs. Then reach out to the authors at Donald.voltz@gmail.com or Thanh.tran@zoeticx.com for a reality check.

About Donald Voltz, MD
Donald Voltz, MD, Aultman Hospital, Department of Anesthesiology, Medical Director of the Main Operating Room, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, Case Western Reserve University and Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Board-certified in anesthesiology and clinical informatics, Dr. Voltz is a researcher, medical educator, and entrepreneur. With more than 15 years of experience in healthcare, Dr. Voltz has been involved with many facets of medicine. He has performed basic science and clinical research and has experience in the translation of ideas into viable medical systems and devices.

What’s Next in the World of Healthcare IT and EHR?

Posted on February 24, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In the following video, Healthcare Scene sits down with Dana Sellers, CEO of Encore, a Quintiles Company. Dana is an expert in the world of healthcare IT and EHR and provides some amazing expertise on what’s happening in the industry. We talk about where healthcare IT is headed now that meaningful use has matured and healthcare CIOs are starting to look towards new areas of opportunity along with how they can make the most out of their previous EHR investments.

As we usually do with all of our Healthcare Scene interviews, we held an “After Party” session with a little more informal discussion about what’s happening in the healthcare IT industry. If you don’t watch anything else, skip to this section of the video when Dana tells a story about a CIO who showed the leadership needed to make healthcare interoperability a reality.

What’s Happening at MEDITECH w/ Helen Waters, VP @MEDITECH

Posted on January 25, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: Here’s the video recording of my interview with Helen Waters from MEDITECH

MEDITECH - Helen Waters

Many in the large hospital EHR space have argued that it’s a two horse race between Cerner and Epic. However, many forget how many users MEDITEH still has using its healthcare IT products. Not to mention MEDITECH was originally founded in 1969 and has a rich history working in the space. On Friday, January 29, 2016 at 1 PM ET (10 AM PT), I’ll be sitting down with Helen Waters, VP at MEDITECH to talk about the what’s happening with MEDITECH and where MEDITECH fits into the healthcare IT ecosystem.

You can join my live conversation with Helen Waters and even add your own comments to the discussion or ask Helen questions. All you need to do to watch live is visit this blog post on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 1 PM ET (10 AM PT) and watch the video embed at the bottom of the post or you can subscribe to the blab directly. We’ll be doing a more formal interview for the first 30 minutes and then open up the Blab to others who want to add to the conversation or ask us questions. The conversation will be recorded as well and available on this post after the interview.

We’re interested to hear Helen’s comments about the culture and history of MEDITECH along with what MEDITECH’s doing with its products to change perceptions and misconceptions around the MEDITECH product. We’ll also be sure to ask Helen about important topics like interoperability and physician dissatisfaction (“Too Many Clicks!”). We hope you’ll join us to learn more about what’s happening with MEDITECH.

If you’d like to see the archives of Healthcare Scene’s past interviews, you can find and subscribe to all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on YouTube.

Meaningful Use Is Going to Be Replaced – #JPM16

Posted on January 12, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Big news came out today during the JP Morgan annual healthcare conference in San Francisco. Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of CMS, live tweeted his own talk at the event including this bombshell:


Technically meaningful use is not quite over, but it’s heading that way. We always read about lame duck head coaches in sports. I guess this is the version of a lame duck government program? Of course, this is just coming from the acting administrator of CMS. It’s not yet law. So, all those working on meaningful use reports, keep working.

The end of meaningful use as we know it will be generally welcome news to most in healthcare. Although, I’m sure that most will also take it with a grain of salt. Many in healthcare likely worry that the “something better” that replaces meaningful use and MACRA will actually be something worse. The cynics might argue that nothing could be worse, but I’ve never seen the government back down from that challenge.

What interests me is what levers they have available to them to be able to make changes. Can they do it without congressional action? Are doctors angry enough that congress will take action? What will happen to the remaining $10-20 billion allocated to meaningful use? What will hospitals and doctors that were counting on the meaningful use money do? Will they not get it anymore or will it be available in a new program? Obviously, there are more questions than answers at this point.

All in all, I’m glad to hear that Andy Slavitt is open to change. I suggested they blow up meaningful use a couple years ago.

Andy also did a tweetstorm to outline the 4 themes for reforming the MACRA and post-MU tech program:

These all seem surprisingly reasonable and mirror many of the comments I hear from doctors. However, the challenge is always in the implementation of these ideas. Some of them are very hard to track and reward. I can’t argue with the principles though. They highlight some of the major challenges associated with healthcare tech. It’s going to take some time to infuse entrepreneurship instead of regulation back into the EHR world, but these guidelines are a good step towards that effort.

UPDATE: Here’s the full text of Andy Slavitt’s talk at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Is Fitbit a Digital Health Solution?

Posted on January 6, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I’ve been making the rounds of Digital Health at CES (technically the show officially starts today), I’ve run into an extraordinary amount of digital health sensors and tracking devices. Some of them are me too copycats of the already flooded fitness trackers. Others are doing really incredible stuff around ecg, muscle mass, respiratory, heart rate, and much more.

One conversation that I’ve had multiple times is that Fitbit and Fitness trackers like it really aren’t a digital health solution. This isn’t really said as a knock to Fitbit. Almost always this statement is proceeded by a comment about how Fitbit has done some really great things. However, the question really revolves around whether Fitbit is a healthcare application or whether it’s just a fun consumer device.

There’s no argument that Fitbit has been extremely successful. It’s also created mainstream interest in tracking your health. As a consumer application it’s been a big hit. The numbers don’t lie. However, many would equate what it’s accomplished in healthcare to something like the Wii Fit as opposed to something that impacts clinical care like a medical device. It’s more of a game that provides some health benefits than it is a clinical device. I even heard one person take it as far as to compare it to running shoes. If you did a study, running shoes probably improve the health of many people since it makes it easier to exercise. Does that make it a health solution?

Like I said, I don’t think anyone is arguing that what Fitbit is doing is bad. I also can’t remember Fitbit ever really claiming to influence clinical care. It’s the rest of the world that’s drawing that conclusion for them. Countless are the number of articles that talk about a patient sharing their Fitbit data with their doctor.

In response to those articles doctors have generally responded, why do I care about their Fitbit data? I think the reason doctors react this way is because the Fitbit data is limited and really doesn’t affect the clinical care for most people. Maybe there’s some isolated cases, but for the majority of Americans it wouldn’t change the care they receive.

While this is true for Fitbit, there is a wave of other tracking devices that could (and I believe will) impact clinical care. It’s easy to see how a continuous ecg monitor that’s FDA cleared (ie. Doctors trust the data) could impact clinical care. This is actually true clinical data that doctors will care about seeing.

At this point I think it’s true that majority of doctors don’t want to get your Fitbit data. It’s not clinically relevant. However, that’s going to change rapidly as health sensors continue to evolve. Maybe Fitbit will find some clinical relevancy in the data they produce. If not, a wide variety of other vendors are going to create clinically relevant data that doctors will not only want in their EHR, but they’re going to demand it.

The only question I have now is, should we be building the highways for that data now so that we can easily turn on these new sources of clinically relevant data?

Side Note: I’ll be doing a Digital Health video blab from CES 2016 if you’d like to join.