A unified digital health record system for American patients has long been considered the “holy grail” for the healthcare industry. And, like the medieval legend, it’s been a quest embarked on by countless health IT leaders and industry groups over decades.
Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison’s vision to use the power of Cerner to build a national health records database is a lofty ambition, and it’s an aspiration that will take an unprecedented level of collaboration to execute, health IT execs told Fierce Healthcare.
Ellison’s announcement last week, on the heels of its $28 billion deal to pick up the electronic health record company, was met by a healthy dose of skepticism by interoperability experts who have been striving for years to build technical “roadways” to make it easier to access and share health data.
“The concept is not new, and the barriers still remain,” Patrick Murta, a health IT leader and chief platform architect at digital health company BehaVR, told Fierce Healthcare. “Saying that you’re going to build a national database and bringing that to fruition is a different story. This particular model is going to face the same barriers that have been there for many years and there’s no easy path to overcome those barriers quickly.”
Murta is a former co-chief architect for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s FHIR at Scale Taskforce (FAST), an effort to accelerate the adoption of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standard for application programming interfaces to improve data sharing. FHIR serves as the core data standard to allow patients to access medical records on their smartphones.
There are immense and long-standing barriers to sharing health information with the same ease that consumers can share their financial information using banking apps. These hurdles include a lack of coordination among different facilities and health systems and inconsistent technical standards resulting in EHR systems that can’t “talk to each other.” Along with technical challenges, there are also operational and business roadblocks, such as divergent policies related to privacy that govern how electronic health information is exchanged or used.
There are significant data security issues, and the industry has to contend with different approaches to gaining consent from patients to share information.