Friday, October 23, 2009

The 68% Solution

The issue of data portability is the single largest future problem that we need to address today if we have any hope of saving ourselves from our self imposed enslavement to our EMR platforms.

It is without doubt that our governments understands this.

The creation of the OntarioMD CMS v3.0 specification specifically ensures that compliant solutions will have to provide both import and export functions for a core patient data set.

In concept, this sounds very powerful. With the current standard, you are able to export and import data from any certified vendor EMR into any other certified EMR solution.

Unfortunately, this standard does not protect the doctor from EMR lock in. Unfortunately, this standard only perpetuates the problem.

It doesn't matter if today you have the most super-amazing-incredibly-awesome EMR ever invented. Are you willing to wager that your EMR will always be the very best? Forever? Forever and ever?!?

If you are not careful you will potentially chain yourself to your EMR for the rest of your life!

By defining a standard based on the concept of a finite core data set, one guarantees that valuable information will never be able to be moved from one system to another. Stated another way, by the very definition of the data set, by the identification of a finite set of important information, the government has ensured that anything not in this data set will not be abled to be moved.

By standardizing a core data set, we are making a bet on what information will be important to future medical applications. Who can predict what will be important in the future? We can guess, extrapolate, hypothesis, but we can not be sure.

The core data set is a 68% solution.

The future of your practice and the health of your patients may depend on information captured in the other 32%.

We do not live in the world of finite solutions, finite concepts, finite applications, or finite innovation. We live in a world of constant innovation, of constant refinement to what we deem important.

To make matters worse, day by day, the data pie keeps growing. The core data set, over time, will become less and less relevant. Unfortunately, this is guaranteed by the very definition put in place to protect us.

We applaud efforts to ensure data portability, however we encourage our government to go all-in: require all vendors to guarantee that 100% of the data you enter into you EMR is able to be extracted whenever you feel like doing it.

(While you are doing this, please legislate that software bombs must not be included in medical software systems -- their inclusion is morally reprehensible and those vendors that use them should be ashamed of themselves.)

100% data portability is an easy standard to define. It is future proof. Once implemented, it never has to be revisited.

If all vendors are required to make available all data at all times under all circumstances, you will be able to move to new technologies in the future, to new applications that haven't even been dreamed up yet, to new applications that will transform the way you will live, work, and practice medicine.

Today, we don't need to know what the applications will be. Today, we know with absolute certainty that they will come. We don't know what data sets these fantastic new tools will require. How could anyone know this? These brilliant new tools haven't been invented yet.

But there is one thing we do know. We know that high tech innovates on an every increasing cycle. The current technology world reinvents itself every 3 years or so.

For example, Twitter was founded in 2006. Who in 2003 could have predicted that in 2009, electoral fraud in Iran would be exposed and a revolution catalyzed by a technology that would be invented three years hence.

In 2003, no one could predict that a transformative social network, Facebook, would be founded in 2004. How could they, in 2003, people were busy trying to figure out how to integrate the modern Blackberry (first released in 2002) into their lives. In 2003, these first Blackberry users had no idea that the incredible technology that just changed their lives would be obsoleted by YouTube (founded 2005) watching iPhone users in 2007.

Now, are you absolutely sure that the EMR you implement in your office today, tomorrow, or next week will allow you to move to the next wave of technology? Are you willing to bet the health of your patients on that?

If you can only access 68% of your data, your prognosis is not encouraging.

If you deploy OSCAR in your office, your future is bright.


Fred said...

OK, so which EMRs on the market employ "software bombs"?

Anonymous said...

A number of the commercial EMRs available in Canada employ software bombs. Unfortunately, it is a very common practice in the local health care vertical.

Any "vendor controlled, password protected feature" qualifies as a bomb. The most sinister are the ones that disable your system completely at the end of your annual support contract.