Friday, April 18, 2008

Health 2.0 - Healthcare and the data portability challenge

Recently I was asked to put together a keynote address for a TiE-DC event. Tie-DC is the DC Chapter of an organization of Entrepreneurs and innovators in the Mid-Atlantic region. The theme of the event was the transformation of Healthcare IT and the elusive patient interface. With working for the leading health care payer in the region this is something I am keenly interested in. The health care industry faces a period of transformation driven by social, political and technological changes. One of the things that has drawn me to the healthcare industry is the potential for technology and the social aspects of Web 2.0 to dramatically change the delivery of healthcare services for the better. The scale of the challenge in healthcare is enormous. A challenge that is too big for any one company to solve alone. When you come to this realization you just have to adopt a different mindset. The healthcare industry in the US is heading towards representing 20% of the entire economy. It already operates at a massive scale. So where can we look for different approaches? We need to look to the Internet. The web operates at enormous scale yet it is not tightly coupled and controlled in the same way the largest players in the Healthcare industry control their networks. The healthcare industry can and should learn from the Web. But what should we learn? I believe that if we want to transform healthcare we need to remove some of the complexity. I am a big proponent of Data Portability and its principle components: These technologies are rapidly increasing in popularity on the web because they are simple to implement. Data portability grew out of the desire by users to have portability of their social network relationship information between different social networks. The challenge that the Data portability movement is attempting to address is closely paralleled by the evolution of the Personal Health Record in the healthcare industry. We will want to own our own health information, but we will need to be able to share that information with medical providers and others. We will need a universal ability to share information, but share it securely. At the same time the process of managing access will need to be easy. We can learn an awful lot from the simple approaches that characterize OpenID, OAuth, microformats and other pervasive technologies that have succeeded on the Web. To understand how dire the current situation is just look at this tale that was posted on the Health 2.0 Blog.