The Marvels of Technology Missing in Health IT

Posted on November 30, 2011 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’m currently on the long flight from Las Vegas to New York City. The early flight time and long flight remind me why I prefer to just stay in Las Vegas with the occasional west coast trip, but I digress. In order to not lose an entire day of work on the airplane, I spent far too much for the overpriced internet service on my flight. As I’m traveling at 30,000 feet, it’s amazing to me that I’m connected nearly as good as when I’m sitting at home. Sure, in flight internet has been around for quite a while, but it still amazes me. What will amaze me even more is when the internet is free on every flight. Maybe pharma ads could pay for this too.

While experiencing this amazing connectivity, I can’t help but think of how poor so much of the connectivity in healthcare is. That’s right. We can find a way to offer internet connectivity at 30,000 feet in an aircraft moving hundreds of miles per hour and yet we can’t get connectivity to rural hospitals and other healthcare locations?

Plus, even speaking more broadly, I can access all of my normal services from an airplane, but for some reason I have no way to connect all of my healthcare data together.

Those in the industry realize the problems. The challenge of connecting all of our healthcare data from the various EHR (or maybe in this case EMR is appropriate) data silos is an academic exercise that’s easily accomplished. Hit any of the interoperability showcases at HIMSS or other healthcare IT events and you’ll see EHR software vendors communicating with each other and sharing data. Why then can’t we make this a reality?

The challenges are still the same they’ve been for a long time now: funding and politics.

I still cringe to think of the missed opportunity that ARRA and the HITECH Act could have provided in this regard. Instead of incentivizing use of an EMR, they should have and could have incentivized interoperability of healthcare data. The great part is that you’re not going to start exchanging data in healthcare without an EHR so you’d be getting more EHR software adopted and interoperability. Water under a bridge now I guess, but it keeps eating at me.

My biggest hope now is that a grass roots movement will form that will drive what we should be doing anyway. Everyone knows and understands the benefits to healthcare and the patient of exchanging healthcare data. It’s easy to make the case for how patient care improves and how duplicate costs are avoided. We need more people that are willing to hop on board interoperability of healthcare data cause it’s the right thing to do. Sure, we need to do it in a smart and reasonable way, but the ROI of healthcare data exchange goes well beyond dollars and cents. This ROI can’t be put on a spreadsheet, but instead will help us all sleep better at night.

Are there any movements like this out there? I can’t say I’ve seen any, but I’d love to see one. Then, we’d have a real beacon community that’s set on a hill because it earned and deserved the recognition as opposed to beacon communities paid for by tax payers.

Side Note: I’ll be in NYC this week at the Digital Health Conference and at the mHealth Summit in DC next week. I’m already planning to meet a number of my readers at these events, but I’d love to meet more.