On Thursday December 14, BetterDoctor hosted this year’s last SF healthcare data and APIs meetup. We had a great evening with a wonderful group of about 50 developers, data scientists and other healthcare data geeks, who gathered to discuss healthcare data interoperability.

The evening began with lightning talks by our three speakers: Anya Schiess, Co-Founder and Partner at Healthy VC, Kelly Ling, Senior Product Manager at Change Healthcare, and Daniel Kivatinos, COO and Co-Founder at drchrono. Below is a quick recap of the event - videos will be posted on your YouTube channel soon (link will be added here).Thank you all for participating and joining!  

Interoperability continues to be a challenging issue in the healthcare industry. Everyone who works with clinical data  – everything from EHRs and EMRs to data on the administrative side – understands this. If you as a patient have ever been to one doctor and then visited another one, it isn’t surprising that those two systems do not talk to each other. In healthcare, sending and receiving data can take many months making the process extremely painful for all parties involved. And as we move into an era where everybody wants to exercise their right to their own data, the existing  EHR infrastructure is not set up  to handle the issue just yet. As our speakers highlighted, the problem is not anybody’s fault, nor can anyone solve it alone. We not only need collaboration and transparency in the industry but also the political will to make impactful changes.

Pushing for interoperability has produced mixed results. For example, the industry wide attempt known as the Argonaut project (private sector initiative to advance industry adoption of modern, open interoperability standards) or FIHR standards for modern APIs have not had the best outcomes. Although this project has been a step in the right direction, the actual implementation has led to many parties creating their own version of the standards.  What has created this blocker to standardize data has been the creation of (too) broad descriptions and very little enforcement and regulation. Since solving this issue from inside the industry has yielded limited results, many believe that  interoperability must be solved by people working outside of it. At our meetup, folks felt that the right kind of disruption will come from “outside health care”, from other big tech players, like Amazon or Google. However, the success of tech companies succeeding at solving interoperability is questionable. Nonetheless, collaboration is key.

Acquisitions and mergers within healthcare IT have also complicated to process. Drchrono stands out in the EHR world as they only one that is cloud based. Their COO and Co-Founder Daniel gave the example of a “hospital cow”, a computer with the EHR system,  and showed how a mobile, cloud based EHR/EMR can drastically change the user experience and the time that is used updating the records during the typical 15 minute appointment. We have noticed an increasing readiness in the industry to adopt the cloud as a way to store data, although many still worry about its safety and compliance. Kelly, from Change Healthcare, pointed out that their company has been growing and innovating new ways to exchange, model and maintain data, mainly through the aforementioned acquisitions. While the company is capable of using modern technologies, she reminded us that they also need to cater to the needs of their existing clients, which still struggle with adopting legacy technologies. However, she also talked about Change healthcare is part of many industry wide efforts working to solve these issues, such as Commonwealth alliance, FIHR and Hyperledger’s blockchain in healthcare working group.

When asked what the speakers were most excited about when it comes to data interoperability, Anya(Healthy VC) brought up machine learning. It has a huge potential to make sense of the vast amount of data we have today. One great source for this data is already being collected by the different wearables, such as Oura rings, fitbits and more. According to Daniel, that data should get right into the EHR. Today, drchrono allows this capability. BetterDoctor’s CEO Ari Tulla summed it up by saying how the healthcare industry is now at a point where it has known computers for 10 years. If we think about any other complicated and highly regulated industry, such as banking, they were introduced to computers 15 years earlier. Now the banking industry has solved many issues that used to difficult the data liquidity and can build on top of that data with APIs, machine learning and artificial intelligence. This could be a sign of a better future for healthcare as well. Interoperability requires industry collaboration but we will see lots of technological changes aiming to make the data flow!  

Want to be the first to know about our future meetups? Join the 800 developers, data scientists and other healthcare enthusiasts here! Next year we will continue to host a meetup once or twice every quarter. If you want to contribute into what they will look like, fill out this 2 minute feedback from. We are always looking for interesting speakers to tell their stories and healthcare companies to co-host our meetups! Get in touch with Pauliina to learn more.