Globalizing Health Data is Impossible

Posted on August 6, 2013 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 keep hearing people say over and over that we just need to have a standardized set of data and interfaces for healthcare. This is one of the most unrealistic comments I hear and it is said all the time. This will just never happen.

In a recent LinkedIn conversation, Susan Hirst offered this insight on the idea of globalizing data:

I worked in a different industry in the 90’s and they tried to globalize data! They put millions on the table with some of the country’s best…when all pieces, parts were brought together under very strict development criteria nothing talked to each other in the program. It was abandoned because to fix the pcs and parts would have dbled the cost.

Same with EHR and government fingers in the program pie! Every specialty has specific needs and no two physician will practice the exact same….besides, the incentives offered to go thru the pain never overcome the actual cost in hard assets and lost productivity! So we all know the “who” behind the mandates and it is not all just government.

I’ll leave her finally conspiracy theory comment aside, and just focus on the challenge of globalizing healthcare data. Doctors will never let it happen. The most we can hope for is interoperability of data. This is an achievable goal and will happen. Healthcare data is going to be exchanged between providers. In the relatively near future a doctor will have access to a patient’s entire medical record whenever they need it. This will be a sea change in how it works today.

What won’t happen is all of that healthcare information being sent in some sort of standardized way so that the granular data can be sucked into the EHR and presented to the doctor in a standard way. Certainly we’ll be able to do that with some elements of the health record. We do that today with prescriptions, lab results, etc. Although, if you’ve worked on even those interfaces, you will understand why we won’t ever be able to do the same with the entire health record.

Good, Bad, or otherwise, doctors have a lot of autonomy in how they practice medicine and how they document the patient visit. This is unlikely to change and is a major reason why we’ll never have truly globalized health data.