Applauding Interoperability Improvements

Over the last decade, the U.S. government invested $36 billion with a promise of accelerating the digitization of medical records in order to improve the quality of care — and life — for patients.[1] The rationale was that in order to best treat patients, you must be able to seamlessly store, retrieve and share medical data across the hospitals, clinics and practices at which they are treated while respecting privacy and security.

Today, however, despite that significant investment, electronic health records (EHRs), remain disconnected and inaccessible for many. As consumers, we expect to – and in fact, are able to — go to any bank, use our ATM card issued by a different bank, and reliably take out our money.[2] Why then – when it comes to our EHRs – which arguably contain the most important information Americans own – is interoperability such a challenge? Perhaps because healthcare is truly different with a variety of stakeholders and business models with misaligned incentives all with varying touchpoints with individuals.

At IBM, we strongly believe that all citizens have a right to improved information flow between the various clinicians they see. In my opinion, improved interoperability will fundamentally revolutionize healthcare by improving population-level care, coordination, delivery and management. And in order to achieve this goal, we need public-private partnerships that simplify sharing and re-align incentives across stakeholders.

It is with that mindset that we are proud to join our cloud technology peers – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce — in applauding the efforts of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to advance safe and secure consumer-centric information sharing across the health ecosystem through open APIs, while continuing to advocate for trust, transparency and openness.

Learn more about our interopearability pledge

However, this is just the first step in advancing interoperability while providing opportunities to innovate and deliver new services to the health ecosystem. To truly make an impact, we must continue to push for improved standards and community-based approaches that deliver on open and collaborative models that help clinicians better serve patients.

We will continue to take our journey to The White House and Congress to share that together we take steps towards applying a precision regulatory approach with the goal of helping enable our industry to reduce barriers to information sharing, accelerate innovation and ultimately promote higher quality affordable care for all Americans.

  1. Erika Fry and Fred Schulte, Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong, March 18, 2019, https://fortune.com/longform/medical-records/
  2. Erika Fry and Fred Schulte, Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong, March 18, 2019, https://fortune.com/longform/medical-records/