I recently heard an interesting comment that “meaningful use drove the data gathering.” As you look at meaningful use, it has been the driver of data gathering in healthcare. I’m not sure any other technology has gathered more healthcare data than EHR software (I guess the health plans might have a case here, but it’s different healthcare data). Much of the EHR adoption is attributed to meaningful use.
While it’s great that we’re gathering all of this healthcare data, it’s worth asking the question of what’s being done with this data. Are we meaningfully using the data we’ve gathered? Is the data in a format that we can use the data?
The past 3-5 years of EHR has been defined by EHR systems that converted the paper chart world into an electronic chart world. I believe this is a great step forward, but it’s only a step. The next 5 years we’re going to start using the data that’s been gathered into EHR software and that will change healthcare.
One challenge we face is that many EHR vendors are locking in the data. They’ve gathered the data, but they haven’t set it free so it can be used for good. I believe locking in the data is bad for healthcare, but I also believe that it’s a bad business decision by EHR vendors.
In the future, EHR vendors will be differentiated more on the marketplace of third party applications they support than on their own in house developed apps.
I think we can barely imagine what benefits will come from the proper use of the data we’ve collected in EHR software. EHR data is a treasure trove of opportunity. We just need EHR vendors to start acting like the database of healthcare and stop trying to be the end all be all solution. Then, we’ll see innovation that we haven’t even imagined come into view.