Tech Companies Commit to Improving Access to Health-Care Data

Technology companies have pledged to increase patient and provider access to health data by removing technological barriers that prevent the owners of health-care databases from sharing information. The effort is intended to drive down health-care costs and improve patient outcomes.

Even after switching from paper to digital records, health-care data has largely remained siloed. Providers and insurers hold the information in different formats that preclude easy transfer and access. In addition, the high privacy standards for health-care data sharing outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have disincentivized companies from making this data more easily accessible.

The result, according to many providers, is an inefficient system that drives up health-care costs. For example, the U.S. recently spent 17.9 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, a number that has been rising and is expected to rise further still in the coming years. Improving the exchange of data between health-care systems could lead to $30 billion in savings each year, which could be spent on improving patient care.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, MPH, asserted that improving interoperability has the potential to drive down costs and improve patient outcomes. “We want to lean into technology,” she said, “and use it as a potent force to create more efficiencies in our system.”

Technology and data companies also stand to benefit from the troves of data that could become available. The companies that have committed to the project, including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce, hope that increased access to consumer health data will allow them to create more effective applications and products for patients, physicians, and other customers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2018.