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Taking a page from Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” we take a look at the three ghost of health data exchange in a recent HITECH Answers guest article.

HITECH Answers: The 3 Christmas Ghosts of Health Data Exchange

The holiday season is always a great time to reflect on where we have been, and look at what lies ahead in the future. This is why I recently authored a guest article for HITECH Answers that takes a page from Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” and looks at the three ghost of health data exchange.

This article provided me with the opportunity to offer a creative twist about the past, present, and future of health data exchange. “Bah! Humbug!” as you may say, but I believe there is plenty to learn in looking backwards and forwards.

Here’s the premise of this article in a nutshell … health data exchange in the past was cumbersome, expensive, and handcrafted. Connections were made on a site-to-site basis, setting up an exchange between two hospitals required at least months, and often years, to fully implement.

The present is a bit better with data exchange costs and labor dropping, due to leveraging tools like healthcare-specific interface engines. Though patients suffer from “portalitis” with different portals, and most exchange remains site-to-site.

In the future, the idea of exchanging health information is no more a burden than the thought of sending an email – it will be simple, secure, inexpensive and ubiquitous.

I have personally witnessed many organizations over the past year, actively moving from present to future, and they come from different business models.

Some are digital health startups that need data, but can’t afford the time or costs to exchange in traditional ways. Some are population health vendors who see their value-add as data analytics, not exchange – and so, gladly move to an outsourced model that gives them more capabilities at lower costs. Other brave organizations are actually “in” the exchange business. These brave, tenacious pioneers are “re-platforming” from self-hosted and managed solutions to SaaS solutions, which give them capabilities and the time-to-market they could not approach before.

I have also seen exchange scenarios make inroads in places where it was considered unfeasible before. For example, single doctor practices in very rural areas are now able to participate in exchange at almost no load to them. Notably, this is without grants, or someone else like a payer footing the bill. I’ve also seen mobile radiology services exchanging real-time orders and results with EHRs, and simplifying workflows at a cost similar to email services.

Just as in “A Christmas Carol,” this future transformation doesn’t require a lot of time – only a willingness to embrace change. There is a bright new future for health data exchange right around the corner. I wish you all a healthy, happy, safe, and prosperous holiday season!

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