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Amazon, Google, Microsoft Commit to Improving Interoperability

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants seek to advance healthcare interoperability and health data exchange.

Tech giants pledge to improve interoperability.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A group of large tech companies including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce, and Oracle recently stated their commitment to advancing healthcare interoperability and health data exchange through artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud.

The joint statement coincided with the CMS Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference in Washington, DC.

Blue Button 2.0 is a CMS initiative intended to allow Medicare beneficiaries to share health data, previous prescriptions, treatments, and procedures with new doctors as part of an effort to drive lower rates of duplicative testing, improve continuity of care, and streamline billing by improving health data exchange.

In accordance with the Blue Button 2.0 mission, the companies affirmed plans to assist in resolving remaining problems that inhibit seamless data sharing.

“We are jointly committed to removing barriers for the adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI,” wrote the tech giants in a joint letter. “We share the common quest to unlock the potential in healthcare data, to deliver better outcomes at lower costs.”

The companies listed four foundational assumptions that will form the basis of their efforts to improve interoperability.

First, the companies emphasized that “the frictionless exchange of healthcare data, with appropriate permissions and controls, will lead to better patient care, higher user satisfaction, and lower costs across the entire health ecosystem.”

The companies also noted healthcare interoperability must meet the needs of all global stakeholders to be successful. Additionally, interoperability must meet the demands of patients, healthcare providers, payers, app developers, device and pharmaceutical companies, employers, researchers, and other stakeholders who will develop, test, and scale new health IT tools and services.

The companies also underscored the importance of open data standards.

“Open standards, open specifications, and open source tools are essential to facilitate frictionless data exchange,” wrote the companies. “This requires a variety of technical strategies and ongoing collaboration for the industry to converge and embrace emerging standards for healthcare data interoperability, such as HL7 FHIR and the Argonaut Project.”

Finally, the companies committed to engaging with stakeholders familiar with health data standards on an ongoing basis to accelerate innovation in data exchange.

“We understand that achieving frictionless health data exchange is an ongoing process, and we commit to actively engaging among open source and open standards communities for the development of healthcare standards, and conformity assessment to foster agility to account for the accelerated pace of innovation,” they wrote.

This pledge to utilize open standards to advance interoperability aligns with the aims of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures.) Cures includes provisions that support a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), which will foster a network-of-networks across the healthcare ecosystem for streamlined health data exchange and true interoperability.

“Together, we believe that a robust industry dialogue about healthcare interoperability needs will advance this cause, and hence are pleased to issue this joint statement,” concluded the companies.

This push to remove barriers to interoperability comes ahead of new information blocking regulations slated for release from ONC next month.

Stakeholders including Health IT Now, AAFP, and AMIA have pressed ONC on why the federal agency has not yet published clear information blocking regulations in a letter to National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Donald Rucker, MD, earlier this month.

The highly-anticipated regulations will identify which activities are not considered information blocking and are considered acceptable activities for health IT companies.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is authorized to penalize vendors or providers who engage in information blocking.

Innovation and federal regulations tailored to promoting interoperability will help to streamline health data exchange to improve data access for patients and providers.

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