By Bill Bates, SVP, Engineering, Validic™

As the Head of Technology for Validic, I interview a lot of candidates for our team, and in almost every discussion I am asked, “What brought you to Validic?” or “What keeps you at Validic?” There is no single reason or simple answer to these questions, but there is an overarching theme: the potential to change healthcare. Using technology available today, our team is positioned to change how people take ownership of their health and wellness outcomes. This will be accomplished in the coming years by enabling better data interoperability, shifting health data ownership, and providing individuals visibility into their daily biometrics.

Enabling improved interoperability

With many of the interoperability requirements established as part of Meaningful Use stage 3, larger healthcare systems and EHR technologies have adopted open standards for exchanging data. One such standard, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), provides not only the capability to exchange data between EHR systems, but also provides a means for taking in data from sources outside of the EHR and integrating that data into the clinical workflow. This provides clinicians with a view of their patient’s health outside of the four walls of the hospital, and in conjunction with the patient’s overall history.

In and of itself, FHIR is not some remarkable new technology; on the contrary, the standards are built on the well-known technologies of RESTful APIs and JSON data formats. But by adopting such a standard, healthcare systems will be enabled to integrate with each other and a number of other applications.  Validic, being one of those sources of patient-generated health data, is in a position to help promote the use of FHIR for this purpose. And as such, can help drive the conversation and adoption of interoperable systems and data.

Addressing shifts in data ownership

The old saying “possession is nine-tenths of the law” has some merit when we discuss who owns healthcare data and medical records.  Currently, healthcare systems behave as if they have sole ownership of medical records and information, largely because this data lives within their clinical systems. In reality, ownership – whether that be by the provider, the patient, or another source – is mostly determined by state laws in the U.S. and varies from state to state.  

Today, data ownership can be difficult to determine. More people than ever before are generating and gathering their own health data in massive quantities – and oftentimes, much of this information is inaccessible to healthcare systems. As the tides shift on where data is sourced from, particularly in cases where patients are submitting their data from external sources into their provider’s EHR systems, we will likely start to see those patients assume ownership of that data. And, we will see that while data ownership deepens for patients, all players remain stakeholders of the usage or application of that data with that patient’s consent. 

Data ownership, and the related ability to authorize access to relevant data, will advance as we open up these systems more to patients – making them more accessible and easier to navigate. Patient portals will no longer be read-only venues for consuming data, but rather interactive applications enabling patients to move their data where they see fit. They will also allow a patient to integrate their own data sources, like their wearable device or in-home medical device, into the EHR.

Providing Patients with Better Visibility

As data ownership shifts, a shift in accountability for an individual’s health will naturally follow. Gone will be the days where physicians see data in the EHR and make diagnoses and recommendations without consultation from the patients themselves. Instead, patients will be able to see their data and how it compares with their history in near real-time. We can use technology to enable patients to collaborate on their healthcare with their providers, instead of simply receiving a care plan. More importantly, patients will be able to monitor their data in near real-time, certainly on a daily basis. Patients will have a better understanding of their own baselines and use that understanding to drive decision making when it comes to the actions that impact their health. They will be able to see how decisions made each will have positive or negative impacts on the measurements they are taking. The result will inevitably be a healthier population.

Ultimately, the chain of technology required to support the day-to-day health of a patient is not anything truly groundbreaking. Whether it is the devices, the communication protocols, or the large-scale processing we use to move all of this data between millions of patients and their physicians, the technology has existed for some time. Bringing it all together in conjunction with a more interested, more involved and more technically-capable population has begun to release the potential of patient-generated health data. The use of technology which allows people control of their health beyond the four walls of the hospital will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the future of healthcare.

The statements and opinions held in this piece belong to the individual contributor alone and do not represent the corporate views or beliefs of the company.

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