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Amazon, Google, Microsoft to Make Waves in Health IT Usability

An interoperability insider predicts Amazon, Google, and Microsoft will accelerate health IT usability advancements.

Tech companies including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft may be uniquely positioned to spur advancements in health IT usability.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- With Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other large tech companies now committed to advancing healthcare interoperability, DirectTrust President and CEO Scott Stuewe anticipates the industry will soon benefit from significant improvements in health IT usability.

Stuewe — who replaced former DirectTrust President and CEO David Kibbe, MD, on September 1 — voiced his support for the tech giants’ joint commitment to improving interoperability in emailed comments.

Stuewe suggested healthcare interoperability “may be easier to change from the outside.”

While nonprofit alliances and healthcare interoperability services providers including DirectTrust, CommonWell, Carequality, and others have made significant advancements in exchange over the past 10 years, Stuewe stated large companies with proven ability to meet consumer needs related to usability may be uniquely positioned to overcome certain longstanding industry hurdles.

“Anyone who has worked on the challenge of healthcare interoperability from inside the industry will tell you that while great strides have been made, the work is far from done,” said Stuewe. “These companies can make a difference in breaking down the cultural barriers to interoperability technology adoption. Culture, as they say, eats strategy for lunch.”

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce, and Oracle released a statement confirming plans to improve health data exchange through artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud, and widespread use of health IT standards at the CMS Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference in Washington, DC.

Leveraging open data standards including HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and the Argonaut Project will be an integral component of the tech giants’ efforts to spur seamless data sharing.

Apple is also utilizing FHIR to accelerate advancements in health data access and usability. FHIR standards power the Apple Health Records EHR data viewer, which allows users to aggregate and view health information from disparate EHR systems and healthcare organizations on iOS devices.

“DirectTrust welcomes the pledge made by these prominent members of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) to collaborate on open standards; these organizations can make a great contribution to the cause of healthcare interoperability,” said Stuewe.

Collaboration between large, outside tech companies and healthcare stakeholders familiar with health data standards may foster rapid, consumer-centered innovation.

“Companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and the like, have forged utility, usability, and ubiquity into cultural movements,” Stuewe maintained. “They’ve handily demonstrated that useful and easy-to-use solutions become even more valuable and powerful when everyone uses them.”

“If patients can be engaged in their healthcare and provider organizations utilize the tools already at their disposal, a collaboration with these consumer technology companies will be well worth the effort,” he continued.

Stuewe also commended the tech companies for widening the lens of interoperability efforts to include app developers, device and pharmaceuticals manufacturers, employers, researchers, and citizen scientists.

While patients and providers are ultimately at the center of the healthcare ecosystem, various sectors of the healthcare industry stand to benefit from improvements in interoperability and health data access.

“As the tech giants enter the space, trust that the controls in place are ‘appropriate’ will be needed to ensure consumer comfort with more control over their data and how it is shared, not less,” said Stuewe. “Collaborating on standards is essential to getting the data to flow, but so is trust.”

In their pledge, the tech companies stated plans to collaborate with stakeholders on an ongoing basis to accelerate innovation. The companies also stated they will prioritize the needs of all global stakeholders in their efforts to advance 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,” stated the companies.

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