Silver Tsunami Got You Worried?

HIMSS 18, this year’s huge healthcare technology event, showed that we’ve come a long way in healthcare technology—and that we have a long way to go still. The challenges facing the industry have moved from EHR adoption to EHR interoperability, but the challenges of translating technology to improvements in patient health persist. We are exploring more sophisticated technologies, though: machine learning and AI, biometrics, blockchain, augmented reality, IoT (of course) and even “Dr. Liz”, an idea for a voice assistant that could be installed in patient rooms that could interact with patients, make evidence-based recommendations to physicians and handle all of the administrative overhead of entering information into the EHR.

Both ONC chief Donald Rucker, MD and CMS Administrator Seema Verma talked about the importance of improving the sharing of information; Verma, making the argument that limiting patients’ access to complete histories is a must. CMS even introduced its new MyHealthEData at HIMSS18 aimed at getting healthcare information into the hands of patients faster.

Eric Schmidt, former head of Google, and now technical advisor to its parent, Alphabet, gave a keynote that looked beyond the “givens” of the need to share information and have seamless interoperability. He brought fresh insight. Tom Sullivan of Healthcare IT News did a great piece on his talk, titled “Eric Schmidt lays out formula for healthcare innovation,” so I won’t repeat it all (give it a read), but I did want to share this excerpt:

“EHRs are an incredibly important breakthrough in getting data in place, revenue opportunities, and they manage the workflow of the organization,” Schmidt said. “The sum of what they do is crucial. But FHIR will not fully get the information out and that’s why you’ll need the mid-tier data store.”

The only way to achieve that is by adopting the principles of cloud computing and doing so quickly because the cloud is safer, more HIPAA compliant and easier to use, Schmidt said, adding that of course, he wants hospitals to use Google’s cloud but urged that picking a competitors’ cloud services is better for everyone than not using any at all.

The bottom line is that this “Silver Tsunami”—our aging population—brings massive amounts of data into the system, because older patients use more healthcare. Having data is important, but being able to access and put the data to use is the critical part. By extension, putting data into the cloud is one thing, managing, controlling, finding and getting use from the data is the brass ring. I’m seeing Scality Zenko as having a big role in healthcare data management as the healthcare industry’s comfort with the cloud increases. And, I agree with Schmidt: we’re closer than many think we are to transformation in healthcare IT. He promised to bring a “Dr. Liz” with him if he’s asked to speak at HIMSS again in 2028.

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