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What Is Needed to Address Health Technology Systems That Are Limited in Their Capabilities, Effectiveness

by Eric Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Data Strategies, on November 6, 2020
Eric Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Data Strategies

This article originally appeared in Integrated Healthcare Executive on October 30, 2020.

Eric Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Innovation & Data Strategies at Inovalon recently discussed the Company’s new API Marketplace, which brings the power of comprehensive patient-specific data and analytical insights to any authorized software platform in real time and explains why technology systems across the healthcare ecosystem are limited in their capabilities and effectiveness.

Q:  Can you talk about the newest platform option recently announced by Inovalon?

A:  Sure, Inovalon announced an exciting expanded capability recently, the Inovalon DataStream™ API, which brings the power of comprehensive patient-specific data and analytical insights to any authorized software platform on-demand and in real-time.

We’re leveraging Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)-enabled application programming interfaces (APIs), the foundation of which we invested in heavily in recent years to be able to support our provider and pharmacy customer base. The inbound calls to the Inovalon DataStream™ API can access and return an extensive range of longitudinally linked patient data sets as well as a number of very innovative AI-driven patient predictive insights. The Inovalon DataStream™ Module aggregates data that we have available specific to a patient from Inovalon’s massive longitudinally linked data assets, externally connected datasets, social determinant inputs, connected partners, decision support platforms, EHRs, HIEs and other normalized clinical data inputs, and myriad of other platforms nearly in real-time which is just not seen in the industry elsewhere.

Data accessible through Inovalon DataStream™ has already been de-duplicated, curated and highly normalized so that the clinical data, sociodemographic data, outcomes data, quality data, risk data, clinical encounter details, and benefit coverage details are all linked and aggregated so that the resulting API-output is most valuable.

Applications of the Inovalon DataStream™ API are extensive and able to be incorporated into Inovalon solution offerings, client platforms, and third-party software platforms allowing for detailed data and analytic insights to power highly patient-specific encounters and experiences on demand.

Q:   Most technology systems across the healthcare ecosystem are limited in their capabilities and effectiveness. Why is this?

A:  This is due, in large part, to poor or altogether absent access to the complete patient-specific data profile exacerbated by the lack of interoperability between IT systems. First responders, EHR-based provider systems, healthcare-related call centers, retail clinics, and newly emerging consumer-centric applications are just a few examples of those that suffer from the challenges of inaccessible, incomplete, or old data. The result is that care providers are forced to assess and treat patients with incomplete insight, order otherwise unnecessary tests, exhausting costly time and resources gathering data from disparate sources while still falling short in efforts to personalize consumer applications and engagement.

Fortunately, the government is pushing healthcare organizations to adopt FHIR-based APIs as the standard for exchanging healthcare information, so we do expect to see an increase in interoperability in the future both in how data is transmitted as well as the standardization of what is being exchanged.

Q:   Why are new API technologies important for use in healthcare?

A:  APIs enable information systems to communicate and transfer data among one another seamlessly without the need for expensive, inefficient bulk data transfer approaches that we’ve used in healthcare for the past few decades. If we are looking to solve many of the current problems surrounding data exchange in healthcare, APIs are a promising way to bring the ecosystem “together”. That said, it can be a long road and organizations are at different stages of being able to implement them.

With the API architecture of the Inovalon DataStream™, older enterprise software systems can take advantage of Inovalon’s advanced data and analytical capabilities without having to make holistic “rip out and replace” decisions. This capability provides the ultimate flexibility of modular design, inserting real-time, patient-specific analytical insights into solutions that would otherwise be considered antiquated or inadequate by the progression of healthcare towards an increasingly data-driven and consumer-centric design architecture.

Q:   What are some challenges faced when implementing new technologies into practice? Do you have tips on how to address these challenges?

A:  There’s always challenges when implementing new technologies. At Inovalon, we start with the national standards that are emerging to address payers’ or providers’ needs. However, everyone is at their own level of advancement with some being above the existing standard or below. We try to make our solutions more flexible so they can meet health organizations where they are. If an organization is not up to the FHIR standard, we try to work with and accommodate them so they can utilize the benefits of our offerings in the meantime. The key is having a platform that is flexible to support the client where they are—from bulk loading data sets to real-time APIs and all the variations in the middle. Aside from the technical, there is the challenge of execution of the solution—having clearly defined objections, scoping those into a technical solution design that supports both legacy and forward-looking systems.

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

A:  The value of this platform is in its potential to serve as a game-changer. With real-time patient-specific data at the ready, EHRs can be aware of medications prescribed years ago from far-off physicians; EMTs can know of a patient’s critical heart condition within seconds; pharmacists can be aware of newly added medications and drug allergies otherwise not within their systems; physicians can augment the data within their EHR to look back years before a patient’s first visit to their practice group or hospital, or from across town where different EHRs are used; pharmaceutical companies can be aware of a patient’s eligibility for a clinical trial; and mobile apps can automatically incorporate patient-specific healthcare information on the fly. The benefits are as countless as the applications—delivering better care and better outcomes.

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