We need to share data openly, transparently and honestly. From a broad perspective, the nationwide CommonWell network and other data sharing platforms allow health systems to digitize data and share it across the country. This is one way to avoid the data blocking that we know is occurring. We implemented CommonWell in January to ensure our providers have the information they need to give our patients the best care possible.
Importantly, CommonWell is laying the foundation for a learning health system: a system that can share data seamlessly, enable us to make decisions collaboratively and allow physicians to connect to one another to determine the best standards of care, regardless of EHR supplier. It’s the first step in the right direction as we work toward our ultimate vision.
Learning health systems are important because they help us be better doctors through shared knowledge. Say, for example, you are a physician seeing a patient with high blood pressure. The standard treatment of high blood pressure may involve prescribing a particular medication, but you deviate from that standard due to a complication in this particular patient. Eventually, if enough physicians deviate from the same standard for the same reasons, you’ve created a new standard of care. Previously, the best way to communicate this was in medical journals. Now with a learning health care system we can enable real time learning from each other. While journals are still an important part of medical education, there’s so much value from letting individual physicians learn from each other in new ways.
Ultimately, connecting to our collective knowledge makes us all better — whether it’s through sharing standards of care or tools that enable us to use data more efficiently. Tools such as SMART on FHIR, for instance, have potential to power the learning health system we’re all working toward and it brings wisdom to the masses. Local people can now solve local problems, and share these tools with other providers. That’s powerful. With an open platform, people with great ideas can do something very cool.
In our system, we don’t do information technology projects. We do projects for our patients and our clinicians that are enabled by IT. That’s an important distinction, and one that ensures we’re meeting the needs of our consumers. This agility is critically important as consumers are going to change the way we deliver health care. Consumers are used to having all their information at their fingertips through their phones. It doesn’t make sense that they can’t access their health data as well.
We are seeing this in the phenomenal growth of our patient portal. It encompasses things people expect, for example – Open Notes, lab results and easy enrollment. Consumers have access to information that helps them make informed decisions.
Patients with smartphones have democratized the banking industry, the way we order pizzas and the way we shop for consumer goods. It’s a matter of time before smartphones democratize the delivery of health care. New technological advancements will create a new business model that creatively destroys the old model and we are seeing an intense pressure in health care to constantly innovate. We’ll embrace open platforms or we’ll be the dinosaur in the room.