Solving the interoperability crisis in healthcare with consumer tech

On June 15, 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced that the FDA is preparing to launch a Digital Health Innovation Plan.

The DHIP will resolve some of the ambiguity that exists regarding how the FDA approaches new technologies, allowing innovators to invest their time and resources more wisely. This is an exciting development in digital health because strong, safe health tech software will now have a quicker path to market.

Physicians have historically been at the center of the healthcare ecosystem by virtue of their specialized training and knowledge, but we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. Now, with the mass adoption of electronic medical records, wearables, mHealth and other health tech, the door has been opened for patients to become more engaged in their healthcare -- but health tech companies will need to develop more consumer tech-focused solutions in order to realize the full potential of the digital dream.

Beyond the simple notion that patients actually should be in charge of their own healthcare data, evidence shows that patient engagement is the key to building a strong foundation of preventative care and limiting expensive emergency room visits. However, patient data is currently being siloed. In order to access a complete medical history, a patient today typically needs to request copies of their medical records from every healthcare provider they see or have seen, and there’s no neat and secure way to aggregate that data. At best, they are stuck with multiple PDFs to make sense of.

It’s all about timing

Although technology companies have attempted and failed to solve the healthcare interoperability crisis in the past, there’s reason to believe we’re not far off:

Timing: Smartphone use has grown year-over-year for most of the last decade, and the utilization of wearable health devices is also on the rise. The “Internet of Things” has evolved well beyond where it was in 2011 when Google Health fell by the wayside, and consumer expectations have shifted to create demand for mobile access to everything.

Reach: There are billions of active mobile devices around the globe. Historically, it has only been chronically ill patients that have been incentivized to actively engage with their healthcare, but ease of use and access could be enough to drive adoption at scale.

Providing simple solutions for patients to more easily engage with their health data and their medical providers will produce better health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Improving the patient and physician experience through consumer tech is central to solving the interoperability crisis. The expansion of consumer tech in the healthcare space and the evolution of federal regulations to allow for health tech entrepreneurship signals that it’s an exciting time to be a part of the shift to patient-centered medicine.

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