Interoperability, at its simplest, is having the ability to exchange information between systems in a meaningful way.
In a day and age where patients increasingly desire to take an active role in their health, we have access to more data than ever before. The volume and diversity of patient-generated data has grown exponentially as Fitbits, patient portals, smart scales, electronic surveys, smart glucose monitors, conversational interfaces, and more are integrated into the healthcare ecosystem.
Unfortunately, in the current environment, health data remains largely siloed. Until we break down those silos and achieve a higher level of interoperability, the ability to leverage valuable, often life-changing data insights will be unrealized.
Why it Matters
Undeniably, we are witnessing the digital transformation of healthcare, but interoperability represents both an unmet goal and a key barrier to accelerating that transformation. Today, electronic health records (EHRs) remain a “black box,” while IoT device use is proliferating without full integration. As a result, there is a missed opportunity to elevate our understanding of the patient journey—and to leverage connected data to optimize workflows, garner insights, and improve outcomes.
Recent calls to action underscore the need for true interoperability. HIMSS, an organization leading the charge in digital healthcare policy, asserts that “the industry must achieve secure, appropriate, and ubiquitous data access and electronic exchange of health information.” In their October 2017 statement demanding greater commitment from U.S. Health and Human Services, HIMSS notes that “now is the time for bold action.”
The Impact on Pharma
By making pharmaceutical data interoperable, organizations can improve and track clinical decision support, patient identification quality, medication adherence, and advanced analytics—all, in part, to enable precision medicine. Given the growing trend toward combination drug-device therapies, scientific discovery and real-world evidence will increasingly become reliant upon a foundation of interoperability.
While biopharmaceutical companies have pioneered amazing breakthroughs in the area of immuno-oncology, the prevailing lack of interoperability has the potential to dilute scientific discovery. In a 2017 position statement, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) cited a recent poll they conducted of cancer patient advocates in which 80% said they would describe the experience of sharing health data between providers as “difficult” or “very difficult.” Without addressing this barrier to oncology care, the vision of providing precision medicine is unlikely to be realized.
Given the level of digital transformation achieved in a number of industry verticals—in which consumer experience and business models have been dramatically reshaped—it is hard to accept that healthcare must remain dysfunctional and disconnected. The recent CMS announcement changing the Meaningful Use program to “Promoting Interoperability” showed there is a growing sense of urgency among stakeholders. When data securely flows, and technology is interoperable, a future state of healthcare begins to unfold: One that is digitally driven, functionally connected, and inherently secure. As an industry, we share a responsibility to not only understand the need, but to also commit to architecting a sustainable solution with expediency.