Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

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Amazon, Google, IBM Pledge Health Data Standards, Interoperability

Amazon, Google, and IBM joined other technology giants to pledge progress towards the adoption of health data standards, interoperability, and the Triple Aim.

Health data interoperability and data standards

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Half a dozen of the biggest names in technology – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, and Oracle – have joined together to pledge speedy progress towards true health data interoperability.

In a letter issued by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the six tech giants stated that they are “jointly committed to removing barriers for the adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI.”

“We share the common quest to unlock the potential in healthcare data, to deliver better outcomes at lower costs,” the companies said. “Together, we believe that a robust industry dialogue about healthcare interoperability needs will advance this cause, and hence are pleased to issue this joint statement.”

The brief document included four “foundational assumptions” about the current and future states of health data interoperability, the first of which is the fundamental belief that frictionless, secure health data exchange is indeed the key to achieving the Triple Aim of lower costs, better outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction.

“Healthcare data interoperability, to be successful, must account for the needs of all global stakeholders, empowering patients, healthcare providers, payers, app developers, device and pharmaceuticals manufacturers, employers, researchers, citizen scientists, and many others who will develop, test, refine, and scale the deployment of new tools and services,” says the second pillar of the tech companies’ philosophy.

To achieve these goals, the group will work to implement and refine open data standards, including HL7 FHIR, which are “essential” for achieving true interoperability across disparate systems.

“We understand that achieving frictionless health data exchange is an ongoing process, and we commit to actively engaging among open source and open standards communities for the development of healthcare standards, and conformity assessment to foster agility to account for the accelerated pace of innovation,” the letter concludes.

The announcement indicates that the companies involved – some of whom are direct competitors across multiple areas of cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and the burgeoning ambient computing market – consider standards-based interoperability to be a critical factor for any success in the healthcare industry.

This mutual recognition that proprietary data architecture and competition-driven siloes are counterproductive shows just how far the industry has progressed in a relatively short period of time. 

In 2016, a similar interoperability pledge from some of the nation’s largest electronic health record vendors was considered a dramatic and somewhat unexpected turning point in what had become a fierce battle between frustrated EHR users and the vendors vying for market share.

That agreement came only after industry furor raised by an ONC report that accused vendors of actively blocking information in an effort to remain competitive.

Since that time, the rise of artificial intelligence and the financial pressures of value-based care have accelerated the adoption of standards, including FHIR, across the industry.

With the support of heavyweight healthcare newcomers like Amazon, Google, and Salesforce, as well as important mainstays like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, interoperability is likely to remain on track to help support a fluid, open, and standards-based health data exchange ecosystem.

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