Is Covid-19 the Argument Health Data Interoperability Needed? | WTF Health


“This pandemic highlights why we need that free flow of healthcare data. So that we can make better decisions sooner.”

In the way that Covid-19 has proven the utility of telehealth as a means for health systems to reach their patients, has the pandemic also become the final argument for healthcare data interoperability? Has this pandemic been the worst case scenario we needed to make our best ‘case-in-point’ for why U.S. healthcare needs a national health data infrastructure that makes it possible for hospitals to share information with one another and government health organizations?

Interoperability advocates have been clamoring for this for years, but Dan Burton, CEO of data-and-analytics health tech company, Health Catalyst, says this public health crisis has likely created an inflection point in the interoperability argument.

“What [Covid-19] has exposed is gaps beyond the health system setting. If you ‘click up’ a level to the state level or the national level, we have a digital patchwork today with many, many gaps that exist from health system to health system.”

“It’s so consequential the fact that we haven’t had precision as it relates to our digital health infrastructure and, as a result, have had to make high-level, broad-brush policy decisions that have had really dramatic economic consequences.”

“In the future, we want to be better equipped to be more precise in our response and you can do that if you have a large enough data set and you have it in in the moment that you need that data so that you can make better decisions.”

What decisions can health data help inform? Dan shares all the ways Health Catalyst is leveraging its Touchstone health data repository — which includes 80-million de-identified patient records from hospital systems across the country — to help inform everything from covid-19 treatment options to vaccine clinical trial recruitment and even the most optimal ways to re-open financially fragile hospitals for elective procedures.

“Covid-19 highlights the need for a national [health data] repository, a national digital infrastructure, says Dan. “And we are hopeful that that will be a learning that persists and that there will be some investment at the national and state level to make sure that individual health systems are connecting in an interoperable way, and in an effective way, with a strong, scalable infrastructure backing it up.”