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How Google, Microsoft, Apple Are Impacting EHR Use in Healthcare

Tech companies are going to continue to impact EHR use and how healthcare providers are adopting new technologies, a Kalorama report shows.

ehr use in healthcare patient data

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- Large technology companies are likely going to continue to affect EHR use in healthcare, especially as they file healthcare patents and develop innovative ways to improve patient care.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are just three of the increasingly key players in healthcare, a recent Kalorama report noted, with the three companies filing over 300 healthcare patents combined between 2013 and 2017.

Google is focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and its healthcare and disease research entity Verily. The company has 186 patents, the report stated.

“Apple has filed 54 patents to turn its iPhone into a medical device that can monitor biometric data such as blood pressure and body fat levels and to develop algorithms to predict abnormal heart rates,” Kalorama said. “Microsoft filed 73 patents based on expanding its AI capabilities and developing monitoring devices for chronic diseases.”

Nearly all US non-federal acute care hospitals – 97 percent – had a certified EHR as of 2017, the Kalorama EMR 2018 report stated. Approximately 84 percent of US hospitals had adopted an EHR system by the same time.

READ MORE: Setting the Stage for Value-Based Care with Patient Data Access

In addition to patents, each major tech company is making moves in healthcare that will likely impact EHR use.

Google

Google partnered with the American Medical Association (AMA) earlier this year to encourage mobile health IT development, such as through wearable devices and applications.

The two launched the AMA Health Care Interoperability and Innovation Challenge, which hopes to push medical device development. Specifically, to aid with health data sharing between patients and providers to improve chronic disease management.

“The AMA is working to unleash a new era of patient care through its Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI) by pioneering a common data model for organizing and sharing meaningful health data like patient goal, state and functioning, and assembling an unprecedented collaborative effort across health care and technology stakeholders” said AMA President David O. Barbe, MD.

Google also announced its open-source Google Cloud Healthcare API in March 2018. Other industries have already shown how open data architecture can be beneficial, and healthcare should follow suit, Technical Advisor and former Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. Eric Schmidt explained.

READ MORE: Google Study Uses Entire Patient EHR for Predictive Analytics

“The conclusion you come to speaking as a computer scientist and not a doctor in the room is that you need a second tier of data,” he said in his keynote at HIMSS18. “Rather than a replacement to primary data stores such as EHR systems, the healthcare cloud supplement rather than supplant the former as “a second tier that looks a lot like an unstructured database.”

Apple

Apple Health Records was launched early this year, allowing users the ability to view patient-centered EHRs on iOS devices. Patients at participating hospitals and clinics can view their health data from multiple providers at any time.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, Penn Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, and Cerner Healthe Clinic were among the first to make the feature available to patients.

The app can be used to access numerous types of health data, including allergies, medical conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals from various healthcare organizations. Patients will also be notified when their health record is updated.

Healthcare executives at two-thirds of the early adopters of the technology said Apple Health Records will effectively empower patients, KLAS research found. Fifty-eight percent said the EHR data viewer would help improve interoperability.

READ MORE: Rumored Cerner EHR, Amazon Partnership Talks in Final Stages

“Giving patients the ability to aggregate their health records from multiple sources is a major step forward in solving interoperability challenges, say participants,” researchers said. “For those interviewed executives that offered a more technical assessment, Apple’s strategy epitomizes effective use of interoperability standards (FHIR, in particular), something HIT vendors have struggled for years to implement.” 

Approximately half of respondents said the app will accelerate health IT innovation, with one-third saying it will impact consumer-facing app development.

“By pulling records out of EMRs and on to patient smartphones, Apple has not just changed the flow of data but has also, potentially, opened the floodgates for innovation at the hand of creative application developers — most likely ones outside of healthcare,” the research team added.

Microsoft

Microsoft announced earlier this month that it had acquired the web-based open source hosting service GitHub. The move could impact how healthcare organizations access and use healthcare open-source code.

As explained by HITInfrastructure.com, providers that may not be easily able to switch over from legacy systems could benefit from this acquisition.

“The CMS managed Healthcare.gov has made all of its source code available on GitHub and all of its content available through an application programming interface (API),” wrote HITInfrastructure.com. “EHR vendors Epic and Cerner also have open source code available on GitHub as well.”

Microsoft Azure also has large ramifications for health IT infrastructure and overall EHR use. The end-to-end application development foundation can aid healthcare organizations moving to the cloud, ensuring it is done efficiently and safely.

“The security that Microsoft offers is a different level than anybody can really do on their own,” Insight Cloud Solutions Specialist Mary Ann Pitts explained. “The largest hospitals have already adopted Azure because of what Microsoft can offer for health data security and privacy.”

While Google, Apple, and Microsoft are primarily thought of as technology companies, the ever-evolving healthcare industry is proving to be a good sector in which to invest. Healthcare organizations of all sizes can benefit from the increased mobility and security options, and can also utilize improved ways to offer patients better care.

The need for digital patient engagement and the push for nationwide interoperability are forcing healthcare organizations to find effective tools and applications to improve EHR use. Large technology companies are likely going to keep being major players in the industry as they work to meet the growing needs of providers.

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