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A National Universal Health Record (UHR) Database – Doable Any Time Soon?

Posted on January 31, 2012 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Could a single, mammoth database solve all our health data needs? Margalit Gur-Arie, whose writing and ideas I greatly admire, has been arguing for one quite passionately on her personal blog in a couple of recent posts (part I, part II).

The crux of her posts is this:
– There should be a single, standardized national database to which physician practises, and ultimately EMR vendors, must submit mandatory data, “in real time”. The requirements will be along the lines of current Meaningful Use requirements.
– This database will be accessible to vendors and entrepreneurs alike, and can have multiple EHRs or apps built atop them.
– Since the patient data is available, and easily accessible (no one “owns” the data, they only own the proprietary bells and whistles they perform on the data), this is a near perfect patient utopia.

It’s a great idea and perfect for an ideal world. Except:
Massive databases cause massive headaches, as commenter Omowizard pointed out. There is a price to pay for data available at all times, all places, and by everyone. And if I may add, in Gur-Arie’s model, it’s not clear who’s left holding the bag. Presumably the government. Which opens a entirely different can of worms about data ownership.
Real time updates of data is no joke. At my current place of work, we perform quasi-real time (twice daily) updates of patient visits to client databases from a central repository. The sheer volume is enough to bring down the database servers for a good hour or two.
– We haven’t been able to agree on a standardized schema passed for a healthcare database. What are the odds of this idea ever catching on?
How are we going to mandate data population? After physicians and care organizations, will EMR vendors be the next recipients of government bribes/largesse/sops to induce them to populate the database?
– Gur-Arie herself points out that American enterprise being what it is, if there are no financial benefits to data ownership, they’re going to be a hard sell.

And while it’s easy for me to write a smart alecky blog post about the infeasibility of the mammoth database idea, I shudder when I think of what we have now: disjoint EHRs that don’t “speak” to one another, walled gardens and proprietary ownership of data that pretty much lock physician office in, PHR offerings from companies like Microsoft who will do God knows what with OUR health data.

I don’t think there are any easy answers. I’m leaning more towards an open source health “OS” platform rather than a single database. But at the very least, Gur-Arie offers some great food for thought.

Google Health Resets…errr…Put on Ice?

Posted on May 12, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The always insightful John Moore (so many great John’s in Healthcare IT), posted a great blog post back in September of 2010 about Google Health hitting the reset button. The post was interesting as it tried to show Google Health going in a new direction. The irony was that almost a year ago John had posted about Google Health’s irrelevancy in the PHR market.

Despite the up downs of Google Health, today John put Google Health in Stasis. He sights a great list of yellow and dark orange flags that are a bad sign for those who love Google Health. Here’s one section from his post:

Beginning in late March 2011, we started hearing the rumors of the impending demise of Google Health once again (is this becoming some sort of annual thing with Google Health?). We waited a few weeks to see if the rumors would die down, they did not. We put a call into Google Health to set up a briefing, get an update. Response back was slow (one yellow flag). When they did get back to us, they said it will be at least a couple of weeks (two yellow flags). Next, our Google contact told us by email that they were going to hand Chilmark’s inquiry off to Google’s PR department (screaming dark orange flag). And now today, we received an email from one of Google Health’s most visible spokespersons, Missy Krasner that she is leaving Google.

He then projected that we shouldn’t “expect anything new out of Google Health for at least the next 5 years.” That’s quite the projection. However, I’d take it one step further. I don’t expect to see anything really mainstream out of PHR software for another 5 years either.

I do think that PHR software is going to have a strong showing in chronic patients. I could also see an interesting niche in secondary caretaker healthcare management using a PHR (I’ve got an interesting announcement about baby boomer healthcare coming soon). I definitely want an online means for tracking my parents healthcare. Not to mention, then all of my brothers and sisters could participate as well. A few other niches are likely to be successful as well. Not to mention, other consumer PHR-like applications for healthcare that will become popular like the Nike+.