Commenting on IBM, Apple and Epic Alliance

In a recent article, IBM, Apple and Epic: Health IT’s Dream Team it was noted the alliance has some ‘particularly promising implications for healthcare’.  The goal of the alliance is to create a ‘true mobile link between providers and patients through the combination of the strengths of the three companies’. By naming mobility as the most important element to be addressed in healthcare,   we are missing a significant range of other healthcare challenges, including:

  1. Lack of Interoperability: The lack of interoperability beyond one EHR vendor, in this case Epic, limits the ability to truly share patient medical records.  While Epic is one of the top tier EHR vendors in US, there are a total of 350 EHR vendors. While adding Apple’s mobile platform expertise to the mix, Epic’s EHR component may create a ‘seamless, two-way exchange of health data’ assuming that it would be Epic only as the EHR solutions. If a patient has records from multiple healthcare institutes, deploying non-Epic EHR solutions, then the approach from the alliance has no affect.
  2. Patient Care Quality: The lack of interoperability has compromised patient care quality. Care providers have been relying on patients to provide their full medical record. Accessing this information has been severely limited due to the lack of interoperability. Significant medical errors can be prevented if patient medical information is shared among care providers.
  3. Patient Medical Cost: Preventable medical errors have significantly contributed to the overall patient medical cost. These estimated costs have reached a trillion dollars a year that drive up insurance premiums and higher medical costs which are directly passed on to consumers.
  4. Health IT and the Homogeneous Environment: Health IT applications are the main components in creating a supporting environment for care providers, ranging from target notification to collaboration among care providers. Without a collaborative platform capable of sealing off EHR data, from the application itself, health IT app developers must spend additional and unnecessary resources dealing with database infrastructure than with innovative solutions that support care providers.

Creating a “stack solution” is not going to address the main health IT challenge. It may also the catalyst for yet another stack solution from another set of competing vendors, which would further mire health IT deeper into its existing challenges. The alliance is a good start in addressing the above challenges. But it misses the most critical component connecting the diverse EHR patient data sources with the innovative solutions supported by middleware component solutions as well as IBM’s professional services muscle.  With a collaborative platform, more applications can be introduced, on workstations and as mobile devices where Apple with its IOS platforms and consumers reach would have a much bigger impact to healthcare. I believe health IT would truly benefit from alliance such as IBM, Apple and Epic, but such alliances could triple these benefits. This triumvirate needs to address healthcare challenges by adding a connecting component.  A collaborative platform capable of opening diverse patient data sources to effectively offer universal connectivity among care providers with event triggering active data instead of today’s passive broadcast beeps.