How the interoperability revolution will affect all of healthcare

Joe Gagnon explores how integration and consumerism are shaping a new health ecosystem that providers must embrace.

This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on interoperability. Part 1: How market forces, regulations have worked against interoperability

Revolutions rarely succeed on the first attempt. What is clear to revolutionaries is never in question; instead, what they face are beliefs, practices, systems and a lot of embedded self-interest that create obstacles to change.

At this point, we know that the healthcare interoperability revolution will happen, but not because it brings significant benefits to all stakeholders – at least, not initially. In these early days, the move to interoperability will be motivated by the federal government coaxing the industry to work differently and consumers wanting to leverage data and technology to establish a new, interconnected and more effective way of operating.

But lest we get ahead of ourselves, we need to remember that there are many examples in history when the change required to make life better was obvious but was also met with resistance – not because of a reluctance to embrace something better, but because change takes effort, and we generally resist change.

If we were to think about the perfect storm that would move the industry to embrace interoperability, it would be the rise of consumerism, broadly speaking, coming at the same time that the burden of the federal government healthcare programs are putting on the overall U.S. economy.

Consumers’ expectations are rising regarding how care should be delivered (such as by using their mobile phones), and the cost of care is becoming a crushing element across all communities – and yet, no matter how much is spent, we do not seem to be getting healthier.

The good news is that the infrastructure to spur change across the industry has been deployed in every other corner of our lives and is ready and waiting to transform healthcare. Networks, protocols, standards, devices, cloud computing and the Internet are running and poised to enable a new way of operating the healthcare system. Just like all other industries have leveraged this infrastructure, healthcare can do this seamlessly and quickly to drive tangible benefits to all.

Rising consumerism in healthcare

The intersection of interoperability and consumerism in healthcare is a catalyst for a new era in medical care and personal wellness. The ability of different systems and devices to exchange and interpret shared data is crucial in the context of a consumer-driven health landscape.

With the rise of wearable technologies and health apps, there's unprecedented potential for continuous monitoring and management of health. This "connected self" phenomenon empowers individuals to take an active role in their health by providing real-time insights into their physical state, daily habits and potential health risks. This integration enables a more personalized healthcare experience, where data from various sources can be consolidated to provide a holistic view of an individual's health, leading to better-informed decisions and more tailored health interventions.

Chronic diseases such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease and obesity have significant lifestyle implications, making modern digital technologies especially helpful in managing these conditions. The continuous nature of modern digital tools offers new options for managing these diseases. By continuously tracking vital health metrics and lifestyle data, these technologies can identify patterns and triggers, leading to earlier intervention and more effective health management strategies.

For instance, wearable devices can monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels, providing immediate feedback and enabling timely adjustments in medication, diet or physical activity. This approach not only helps in better disease management but also in the prevention of these conditions, as early lifestyle interventions can significantly reduce the risk of developing such diseases.

Many options beget broad evolution

With this plethora of options to embrace and leverage consumer tech in healthcare, we are set up to get the entire system operating in a new way. The distributed tech landscape, running on common standards, enables the movement of data across all stakeholders to deliver optimized care plans, improve quality and lower costs, just as technology has done in all other areas of our lives.

Increasing data access is a critical factor in making interoperability a reality in healthcare and involves the clear communication of secure health data among patients, healthcare providers and payers. With increased access to data, patients can make more informed decisions and engage more in their own care.

For healthcare providers, data access ensures that they have a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s health history, resulting in more accurate diagnoses and effective treatments – and the ability to shift from “sick care” to more preventative models.

For payers, data can lead to more efficient, cost-effective and equitable healthcare delivery. Moreover, free-flowing secure data builds trust among payers, providers and patients, which is essential for the successful implementation of interoperable systems.

As healthcare continues to evolve, it is incumbent on the key stakeholders to leverage cloud technology and the way that data can be shared with APIs to foster a fully interconnected and patient-centric health ecosystem that delivers better healthcare for all at a more reasonable cost, with a compelling consumer experience. Now is the time to lean into interoperability.

Joe Gagnon is CEO of 1upHealth.

This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on interoperability. Part 1: How market forces, regulations have worked against interoperability

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