During a web browsing session the other day I came across a very interesting blog post by Louis Gray titled “The Future: Operating System And Application-Neutral Data”. I enjoy reading Louis’ posts because I think he has a great vision for the future of personal computing, data, and “the cloud”
The blog speaks specifically to the ownership of personal data versus allowing companies to sit on it and possibly hold it hostage secondary to a lack of compatibility with other systems. The information you throw onto the internet defines who and what you are, more now than ever before, and you need to be able to move it around anytime from anywhere.
Louis calls for people to host their own data in a standardized format instead of having data stored by one service provider or another. He goes on to say:
If I chose to log in with GMail one day, I would authenticate who I was, and GMail would pull down my e-mail stream, complete with e-mail activity history (such as replies and forwards). The data would not be stored on GMail, but instead be more like a read-only process, whereby changes to data, including sent items, would not be stored in GMail, but written back to my personal “cloud”, if you will.
Hosting one’s own personal cloud with our own data is not an end run around large corporations in fear of Big Brother, but instead, for real, true, portability. In this situation, a longtime iPhone user could pick up an Android phone, enter my own personal ID (be it through OpenID or some other standard), and pull down my details into all of Google’s native applications.
My brother, Robert spoke of something similar back in June of 2009 when he questioned how to identify and distinguish oneself from all the other people roaming the internet.
I find it interesting that Robert and Louis both mention OpenID as a possible standard. OpenID is a decentralized standard for telling websites who you are. It’s a very interesting concept; one that healthcare could benefit from. Think of carrying your electronic ID with you from place to place. No more learning ten new user id’s and passwords each time you change jobs. How nice would that be? Another option would be to have only one user id and password that gave you access to all the data you were looking for from a centralized hub.
If you look a little deeper though, you’ll find that Robert and Louis stumbled upon a common problem in the healthcare industry; how to handle the stream of data coming form patients and how to standardize it and distinguish it from everyone else’s data. Let’s face it, pharmacy is all about data. We collect it, store it, mine it and analyze it. When you’re looking at a patient’s lab work you’re looking at data; when you’re looking at a patients medication list you’re looking at data. How about their medical history, allergies, radiology results, endoscopy report? Yep. Data, data, data and oh yeah, data.
The problem with healthcare in general, and specifically pharmacy, is lack of a standard to collect, house and access this mountain of data. Some talk about HL7 and XML, but that’s just the box that moves the data from place to place. It’s just a standardized shuttle craft.
Some organizations, like ASHP, are discussing the use of standardized nomenclature systems like SNOMED CT and RxNorm to control the structure of the information inside the shuttle. Like Louis’ GMail and smartphone examples from above, a patient should be able to access their data from any device at anytime in a format that can easily be read by any commercial healthcare system in the world. Of course healthcare would have to adopt some form of centralized data storage, but that’s just part of the solution. Imagine no longer transporting medical records to your physician or having to give your medication history to a pharmacist at the 24 hour Walgreens because the mom & pop pharmacy you usually go to is closed. It’s something to think about. With all the money the government is throwing around to increase the use of health information technology the timing is right to build a foundation like the one Louis writes about. Just a thought.