Google + Shines the Light on the Value of Data Portability


It’s understandable that a healthcare delivery system would have a mindset and business objective to keep referrals within its network of care providers. Businesses have a right and an obligation to try to hang on to their customers.

It’s a different issue whether closed or walled garden HIT is an acceptable means toward that end.

Outside of healthcare, we understand and can accept that businesses used closed, proprietary IT as part of their business model. Apple has designed their iPod with an eye toward incompatibility and high hassle factor in not being plug-and-play with other music players and systems.

IMHO, however, healthcare is different. Keep your proprietary business model away from my body and gimme my damn data.

Google+ v. Facebook on Data Portability

We are witnessing an important dynamic begin to play out between FB and Google+. I note a significant difference in mindset and policies toward data portability.

FB seems to have a mindset to maintain customer data within its walled garden as much as possible. For example, when G+ first opened, I remember seeing an early article about how easily to import some of your FB data into G+; hours later I read an article how FB had plugged this leak. Deleting your FB account is difficult — there are articles walking you through the 634 steps you need to go through.

G+ seems to be built on a diametrically opposing mindset. You can download your data. You can export your data and import it into another social networking site. You can easily delete your G+ account and wipe out your data.

Implications for Healthcare

I believe we will see the mindset difference begin to enter health care – where data portability and open HIT  will become viewed as competitive advantage, rather than disadvantage.

Additional early thoughts here: 10 Reasons Why an Open IT Platform Strategy is the Right Long-Term Choice for an ACO.

An Example

Here’s a hypothetical example of how data portability might evolve as a competitive differentiator in a regional healthcare market:

BigGorillaACO is the dominant care provider in the area. Overall, it has about 40% market share, including a flagship hospital and respected doctor groups as members.

How will BigGorillaACO view patient data? The likely default will be the status quo – “We view patient data as a competitive asset. We see no reason to share patient data outside our provider network. In fact, making data sharing difficult is one way to keep patients within our network.”

Chimp1ACO and Chimp2ACO compete against BigGorillaACO in this regional market. Chimp1ACO and Chimp2ACO both are weaker – they have about 20% market share each.

Being chimps, Chimp1ACO and Chimp2ACO will scratch their heads for a while thinking about how to compete. After a while they will figure out that one of BigGorillaACO’s vulnerabilities is its closed stance (Larry Craig pun intended) toward health IT and patient data portability.

Chimp1ACO and Chimp2ACO will come to view open HIT and data portability as a competitive differentiator against BigGorillaACO. They will start promoting to patients, employers and payers:

“We view patient data as being under the control of the patient. With your permission Chimp1ACO and Chimp2ACO will share patient data with each other and with anyone else you choose – even BigGorillaACO. It’s your data. We’ll even go so far as to say that BigGorillaACO’s decision to invest in proprietary HIT and to make sharing your patient data difficult is mean, dangerous to your health, and immoral. So there.”

IMHO, this will be a very positive market evolution. And at least in part – we’ll be able to thank Google+ for educating us on the importance of data portability.