No @ Sign for Healthcare

Posted on September 15, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 recently heard Arien Malec from ONC summarize the biggest challenge of Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE) in one simple phrase:

There’s no @ sign for healthcare

It’s a really basic idea, but sadly cuts straight to one of the core reasons HIE isn’t happening. We don’t have a great way to authenticate, verify and address health information to another provider.

Twitter has created this interesting concept of using @ to specify people. For example, you can find me @techguy and @ehrandhit. It’s amazing how quickly Twitter has created a whole new set of addresses where we can communicate with other people. Certainly it’s not designed for healthcare, but it’s amazing that they could create this whole new address system for people and organizations. And trust me when I say that Twitter is a great communication and collaboration mechanism.

One of the main reasons the fax machine is so successful in healthcare is that each clinic has a unique identifier, their fax phone number. I’ll be writing more about the fax machine in the future, but HIE needs to solve the problem of a verifiable address that’s unique to each healthcare provider if we want to move beyond the fax machine.

It seems like the people behind NHIN are trying to address this challenge, but they still have a ways to go. Does anyone else know of other ways people are trying to address the missing @ sign in healthcare?