The Continuing Evolution of EHR Solutions
While the application of EHRs has only become prominent in the last 10 years, the concept of EHR systems has been around for decades. The first such examples were developed in the mid-1960s and were known as clinical information systems. These early predecessors may not compare to today’s fully-functioning digital systems from providers such as AthenaHealth, Kareo, eMDs, and Greenway, but they understood the concept of streamlining the capture of medical information and enabling access across a spectrum of users. When the modern internet came along many years later, it dramatically accelerated the ability to more freely share records and information in ways that couldn’t have been anticipated decades before. So while we’re already in a whole new world of patient records, where do we go from here?
Platform vs. Provider
As with many other industries, EHRs are embracing their broader role in information sharing and transforming themselves into platforms versus service providers. So what’s the difference between the two? A service provider is typically very one-dimensional and generally looks at one side of the user experience. In the past, EHRs had generally focused solely on the provider end of the spectrum. As patients have become more involved in their own healthcare consumption, and younger, tech-savvy millennials have become a larger share of the market, EHRs have evolved into full-scale platforms with both patient and provider in mind, even if only the latter is their true client.
Apple’s Growing Role
While news that heavyweights like CVS, Aetna, JP Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway, and of course Amazon were getting into healthcare, have dominated the media cycle, another huge name has also stepped into the arena in a very significant way. In another move toward making the iPhone an irreplaceable device, Apple is adding medical records and health information to the growing list of data points available at the fingertips of its users. Pulling in records from EHRs like AthenaHealth, Cerner and others, Apple is working to make health information readily available, as well as easily shareable with new medical providers. In tandem with the development of the Apple Watch, the potential for a holistic look at one’s overall health and fitness picture is now well within reach.
Adoption of standards (FHIR)
In general terms, FHIR, which stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, is a new standard API protocol for exchanging health record data. Now more than four years old, its objectives include allowing faster, more efficient access for outdated “legacy” systems that are likely to remain in existence for some time, and as with Apple’s role above (which uses the FHIR standard), to make the connection to health information for consumers much more efficient. So what does the future hold for FHIR? In a nutshell, continuing its role as industry enabler, and allowing the innovators to build on the progress being made. The future of healthcare innovation, with the help of evolving EHR systems, now looks very bright.