Lack of Interoperability Leaves Healthcare at Risk During Crisis

The days of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, are long but gone, however, in retrospective reflection, it seems like a lifetime since the start of the pandemic. In the beginning, the inundation of fear and uncertainty of what was to come was all but crippling. Stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, stockpiling and shortages of supplies and resources were all new events and behaviors that most of us have never experienced.

The virus not only brought illness; it brought chaos. Many of our lives were upended as we began working, learning, and socializing from home. Even worse, the seismic shift in the economy left many individuals unemployed with very little opportunity to find work. We were not prepared to react to a crisis in this form, as individuals, as a country, or as humans of this world, so our lives stopped, and thus the world, as we understood it, seemed to stop.

For healthcare workers and healthcare scientists, the world did not stop. In the face of fear and at the risk of their health, these valiant individuals went to their jobs every single day. The routine role of helping sick or individuals n-need and steadily advancing the methods of doing so became frantic. The testing and tools to effectively fight the virus and protect themselves were often in great shortage leaving frontline workers in the path of danger.

There was no data on effective treatment for COVID patients in the early stages of the pandemic. It is hard to believe that in an age where Instagram and Facebook can aggregate internet searches to target marketing campaigns tailored specifically for the individual, healthcare data cannot be aggregated and analyzed in real-time. The healthcare system today cannot effectively aggregate healthcare data in real-time for one condition. COVID-19 exposed the dark secret that healthcare IT is still painfully fragmented. It showed that the pitfalls of disparate data segmentation hurt not only patients but also healthcare workers.

Most people do not think about how difficult a provider’s job is when we are in a doctor’s office or hospital. They examine and then take some notes, update your chart, provide progress updates, and prescribe treatment plans. But do they have what they need at their fingertips, in every room, for every patient? No. More times than not, the provider does not have anything outside of what is in a patient’s charge at a given facility. According to HIMSS, 62% of providers do not use data from outside a patient chart because it is not integrated within their workflow.

We want to help our healthcare workers and the patients they serve. We want the job of a healthcare provider easier so that they can do what we all need them to do: help the community. It is not hard. I will challenge you to take note of your next Google or Amazon search and notice all the similar concepts that appear on your social media feeds and trickle into your email inboxes. That is the concept of real-time data sharing; taking data from one source and sharing with another source which can usefully employ the data. This is the key to innovation in the world of technology and healthcare needs innovation.

The gratefulness for our healthcare workers during this time of crisis, and the dedication they displayed, is not fleeting. The emotional courage and intellectual strength required to serve do not go unnoticed and the greatest return that can be given is providing the support and tools needed to successfully provide care.