Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Open Standards in Health Care Computing

There is a pronounced movement in certain strata of the health care computing field towards open standards. Combine that with the billions of dollars thrown into the mix due to the fact that both Presidential candidates are banking heavily on automated and computerized systems for their respective reform efforts and you have a rich medium for collaborative growth.

Via Dana Blankenhorn at the ZDNet Healthcare Blog:

The latest move is that of Dossia, an alliance of health care technologists mainly on the consumer or medical office side of things, to join Continua, a separate consortium which includes many hospital computing vendors.

As IBM noted recently, such moves can be excuses for inaction. There is, potentially, an enormous amount of value destruction involved in a move to open standards. Proprietary systems can demand top dollar.

But customers of all sorts — from hospitals to consumers to government — are now demanding substantive, real change.

It would seem that more and more evidence is mounting to support George C. Halvorson's theory that we are at the point of a "Perfect Storm" as far as health care reform goes. I would say that a trend of this nature is a very pointed piece of support for that position. Is it just me or does this indicate a realization that the need for our system to work supersedes the need to maintain a short term profit? Besides, once standards are set, competition can help the continuing evolution of the system built upon them.

We do, after all, already have the baseline tools for this sort of development already in use.

The devil here is in the details, but we do have the ingredients of an agreement, in the form of Internet standards, XML technologies, and such industry-specific things as HL7.

Publication of and adherence to those standards would naturally encourage more open source projects and consortia. Having a firm standard to write to means such groups need not hit a moving target.

And that really is one of the best aspects of this approach. The need for standards -- objectives that can actually be met -- will do an amazing amount for the speed of development.

SOURCE: "Growing open standards pressure on healthcare" 10/13/08
photo courtesy of cmdrfletcher, used under its Creative Commons license

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