During the recent Health 2.0 Conference, Chilmark Research analyst Brian Eastwood seemingly channeled my thoughts and Tweeted this observation:
— Brian Eastwood (@Brian_Eastwood) October 6, 2015
If by chance you aren’t familiar with the Health 2.0 Fall Conference, it would be fair to characterize it as possibly the industry’s most “anti-kludgy” health IT event. Now in its ninth year, the Health 2.0 organization is all about showcasing innovative technologies and fostering conversations about the use of technology to transform health and healthcare.
For example, MedWand Digital Health, which won the conference’s Launch! competition, features a medical device that can be used to perform a physical exam from a remote location. The device not only collects vital signs, it also allows the physician to view a patient’s throat, eyes, ears, and skin. Another cool product was the Sentrian Remote Patient Intelligence platform, which aims to reduce hospitalizations by using biosensors and wearable devices to detect early deterioration of a patient’s condition.
There were also several start-ups such as Redox and MI7 Solutions, which offer integration between digital apps and traditional EHRs, while other companies were promoting solutions for secure messaging apps and tools for tracking everything from vitals, brain activity, and sleep patterns.
As Brian suggested, many of the featured products were truly ground-breaking and addressed problems outside the scope of traditional EHRs. The irony, of course, is that these solutions appear far more innovative and easy-to-use than the traditional EHR systems that they are running on top of.
Is that a problem? In a perfect world, EHRs could be nimbly updated to meet all of healthcare’s complex needs. The reality is that most legacy EHRs are massive programs built around older architecture; incorporating new functionality into these systems is typically arduous and time-consuming. Likewise building a brand new EMR platform from scratch would be a laborious and expensive undertaking.
Thus the sad reality is APIs provide a way to get cool new technology into the hands of users in much less time than it would take to update those monolithic EHRs. Rather than being threatened by the concept, Allscripts and athenahealth clearly support these bolt-on apps to extend product usability and were also exhibitors at the Health 2.0 event. No doubt their representatives spent time checking out potential new technologies for their app portfolios.
Even the ONC is on board with APIs and incorporated API functionality into the Stage 3 objective for patient electronic access. The final rule acknowledges that “API functionality could help address may of the challenges currently faced by individuals and caregivers accessing their health data.”
The reality is that if EHRs weren’t so kludgy, we wouldn’t need to bolt on all this hot, new technology. Fortunately these innovations have the potential to improve the EHR experience by facilitating workflow, enhancing usability, and arguably improving the quality of care.
Instead of hearing complaints about how cumbersome EHRs can be and how they hinder productivity and frustrate physicians, the 9th Annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference provided a geekily fun opportunity to get a peek at dozens of solutions that hold tremendous promise for the future of health IT.
Michelle Ronan Noteboom
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