However, there are hurdles to overcome. Creating a trusted network of data requires proper governance and accepted standards for end-to-end security, encryption, identity and consent management and data exchange. Healthcare has many standards, like DICOM, HL7 and the more state-of-the-art FHIR, that need to be upheld. Devices and systems need to provide open access to data through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). We expect both industry players and regulatory bodies to address this with urgency in the coming years. If this doesn’t become a reality, then it’s likely providers will find that working in the digital era will be increasingly difficult. Without a concerted move towards interoperability, there will be limited scope for better patient outcomes and lower cost.
Successfully deploying AI at scale requires interoperable health IT systems. The quality of AI is only as good as the quality of the data that you feed into it, so ensuring it is semantically interoperable and handled with the right privacy and security regulation is essential. Fortunately AI can also help make information interoperable through natural language processing. Today, part of the difficulty in healthcare is that more than 75% of all information is unstructured, often in reports and comments written by doctors. A system that can interpret written text, quantify images and securely share information would give clinicians a longitudinal, full picture of their patient’s health to make the best possible diagnosis and treatment decisions.
Over the past several years, I’ve seen exciting emerging technologies that enable new models, which reflect the dynamic, emerging nature of healthcare. The success of these technologies depends on our ability to effectively aggregate, normalize and analyze data across health systems, apps, wearables and medical devices. We envision a future in which we can access and interpret longitudinal health data at any time, from anywhere. Healthcare professionals will get relevant, contextualized information. They will converse naturally with systems and be freed up to focus more on delivering truly personal care. Patients will get more control over their health. The increased access and continuity of care, supported by dynamic systems and open data, will transform health for billions of patients across the globe. We need the infrastructure to get there.
There are many reasons for optimism. Innovation in healthcare is happening all around the globe, from the US and Netherlands to China and India. We all feel the increasing pressure to improve health outcomes and access to care. If interoperability and a robust health data infrastructure come to fruition in the coming years, then the experience of patients and providers will be radically different than it is today.