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How Tech Giants Are Shaking Up the EHR Space

August 31, 2018

For all of the stereotypes that claim the health care industry is slow and resistant to change, emerging new medical technology (or new variations on existing medical technology) begs to differ. For example: electronic health records, or EHR software.

According to the G2 Crowd Research team, an EHR promises efficiency within a health care organization. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are already run ragged on a minute-by-minute basis; moving from a paper-based environment to a cloud-based one is a boon. This is especially true if the latter exists within HIPAA-determined parameters that help a hospital, clinic, or practice adhere to industry regulation.

Additionally, within the past year and a half, monolith enterprises have been either dipping their toes into or fully diving into the world of EHRs. 

Amazon and Apple EHR announcements

In November 2017, at the AWS re:Intent tech conference, AWS’ CEO announced Amazon’s upcoming partnership with Cerner, which would initially focus on optimizing the latter’s population health product, HealtheIntent. The partnership would ideally improve the protection and regulation of health information as well as make possible the dissemination of HealtheIntent analytics and patient data to “big medical AWS speed and scale and with additional artificial intelligence.” This came on the heels of coverage on Amazon’s 1492 team, a lab dedicated to health care tech, in July 2017. According to Med City News, the 1492 team was “examining ways of making EHRs more accessible to physicians and patients.”

On the Apple side of things, they have been steadily making inroads into the health care sector, starting firstmost with its Health mobile app that first made its appearance with iOS 8 in 2014. Barely a year after rumors were reported about Apple’s “big plans for healthcare,” Apple launched the beta of Apple Health Records in March 2018 with 39 health care systems. (You can scroll through Apple’s health care timeline here.) Apple Health Records would work in the same way that Amazon’s Cerner partnership, optimistically resulting in aggregated patient data and a much more quid pro quo flow of information between patient and physician. On the patient side of things, they can easily update information such as allergies, medications and immunization history. On the provider side, users can more easily pull up patient-generated information before, during and after patient visits.

Google's AMA partnership

In early 2018, Google partnered with the American Medical Association (AMA) to launch the AMA Health Care Interoperability and Innovation Challenge. The Challenge asks participants to capture and submit health data from wearable devices and applications. Then, the AMA would submit that patient-generated data to medical practices and organizations for analysis and actionable intelligence.

Ultimately, the Challenge “hopes to push medical device development,” expressly to aid and increase health data sharing and improve patient care in a meaningful way. Improved population health is the hope of EHRs; both Google and the AMA hope that pushing innovation in medical devices — and mobile medical device in particular — will lead to better physician-to-patient health data sharing, which will then lead to both improved patient engagement and improved chronic disease management.

On top of that, Google announced its open-source Google Cloud Healthcare API in March 2018. With the API, Google hopes to overcome the health care industry’s “significant interoperability challenges.” The API will provide the industry with a structured solution that will better “ingest and manage” health care data. Google calls out the health care’s slow but sure move toward the cloud and theorizes that machine learning will lead to improved patient engagement, patient care and patient experience.

Microsoft's GitHub acquisition

Similarly, Microsoft’s recent GitHub acquisition bodes well for open-source code’s presence and impact in the health care sector. With the acquisition comes well-founded worries about how Microsoft’s existing partnerships will impact the no-man’s-land element of GitHub, and musings by industry professionals on the growth potential for both players. However, the biggest, and most important, takeaway is that Microsoft isn’t planning on revamping GitHub.

What interested them about GitHub will stay: a “Switzerland” playing ground for developers and their codes. That means that all the APIs and open-source codes that are shared, tweaked and stored on GitHub can, and will, still exist. What this means for the health care sector in particular is that the industry can leverage open-source code in the same way that other industries have been.

A considerable challenge for smaller-sized clinics and practices is the difficulty of justifying the cost of switching to an EHRs. To them, EHRs seem bulky and over-the-top. Why should they invest in an expensive system that will require months of training for features that a small health care organization won’t even touch? Well, let’s look at what a Microsoft Azure API would result in for a small clinic. Instead of shelling out for an overwhelming EHR and the team necessary to implement it, a 10-person clinic could leverage the API, utilize the relevant goodies of EHR and  ensure their safe and efficient admin move to the cloud.

Looking forward to the future of EHR

In a nutshell: the EHR scene is alive and thriving. EHRs are no longer bulky legacy products that hospitals must begrudgingly contend with. The prior conversations surrounding the costliness of such systems are giving way to more relevant questions regarding the ability of EHRs to pivot and adapt to disruptive technology.

Health care systems are just as capable as any other of weathering and aligning with change; tech giants throwing their weight behind EHR simply prove that. ” The cheesy statement to make is: “Time will tell,” but we live in a time when things move especially fast, particularly among competitors and in response to people’s needs. It’s more interesting to speculate how the health care industry will respond to these innovations and changes.

What EHR solutions has your health care organization deployed? How’s it going? Have you experienced a particularly smooth or rough implementation? Drop some knowledge and leave a review for one of the EHR platforms we have featured on the EHR software research page.

How Tech Giants Are Shaking Up the EHR Space The health care industry and enterprise technology vendors are playing nice: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google are leveraging their tech expertise to revamp and update the EHR space.
Jasmine Lee Jasmine is a former Senior Market Research Analyst at G2. Prior to G2, she worked in the nonprofit sector and contributed to a handful of online entertainment and pop culture publications.

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