The Internet of Health: Why Collaboration Matters

Author: Duncan Weatherston, CEO, Smile CDR Inc.

For many years now, the healthcare industry has attempted to innovate and introduce a level of interoperability that not only makes sense from a business perspective, but from a patient outcome and healthcare cost point of view. Despite the introduction of EHRs (electronic health records), vital health data still sits in information silos that make it difficult for stakeholders to interoperate and, unfortunately, prohibit advances in patient care. Fortunately, a new standard has emerged that has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry from top to bottom, and collaboration is the key. 

The Internet and collaboration 

In the early days of the internet, it was imperative that companies, organizations, and governments cooperated to make the web something that everyone could benefit from. When we look back to those early years it’s clear to see that companies who succeeded on the internet were not the ones who used it to create closed systems, but those who developed systems that could work together for the benefit of all. 

FHIR: The Internet of Health 

The internet is arguably the most transformational technological advance to be made since the industrial revolution, and few other developments throughout history have become so all-pervading quite so quickly. Not only has it become an integral part of doing business, but it is also now something we wear on our wrists, carry in our pockets, and rely upon for everything from ordering a meal to finding plane tickets, undergoing further education, and keeping in touch with friends and family. 

Importantly, the internet has also become a vital tool for industries hoping to innovate and move forward in the 21st century, not only to provide better service to their customers, but to remain relevant and competitive. 

Despite recent advances, healthcare still lags behind its peers in the banking, retail, manufacturing, and education industries in leveraging the transformational capacity of the internet. 

Although EHRs and patient portals have become commonplace, electronic and internet-based solutions have made little headway in the decision-making and treatment of patients and members. Although all stakeholders throughout the industry have long been craving interoperability in healthcare data exchange, it has been frustratingly slow in coming. That is, until the advent of FHIR: a true game-changer and driving force behind the Internet of Health. The first internet-based standard of its kind, with interoperability at its core, FHIR aims to allow the healthcare sector to finally catch up with its peers and join the Internet revolution by offering simplified data exchange across the sector.

What is FHIRBall? 

The newly formed FHIR Business Alliance, or FHIRBall is a group of companies dedicated to building interoperable solutions based on FHIR. These early adopters are leading the way in collaboration, to be the driving forces behind technological changes in healthcare and in turn, better healthcare outcomes. Joining forces to develop and market their FHIR-based tools and solutions, FHIRBall aims to propel the industry towards via the community-based approach of the FHIR Foundation. 

FHIR: Why collaboration matters

For the internet, and for the companies who’ve made their living using the World Wide Web, collaboration was a crucial feature of their success, as was the TCP IP standard created to unify systems and enable data exchange. The same will be true for the Internet of Health, with FHIR emerging as the TCP IP standard equivalent. 

Sometimes competitors, sometimes allies, and always focused on clients, stakeholders in the healthcare industry must be united in their goal to build trust amongst providers, vendors, patients and members. Collaboration assists in building this trust and in turn catalyzing the adoption of FHIR throughout the healthcare industry for the benefit of all. In fact, not only does collaboration mean the proliferation of the FHIR standard for the healthcare industry, but it also translates into improved results for vendors, reduced strain on healthcare systems, and ultimately better health outcomes for patients and members. 

For members who are likely to encounter any number of unaffiliated organizations during their healthcare journey, information is often inconsistent, incompatible, and often inaccessible. Collaboration between stakeholders in the healthcare industry means improved interoperability of systems, the creation of new applications that add value across the sector, and better decision-making abilities for patient care providers, vendors, and the patients/members themselves. It is only through collaboration, like that happening within FHIRBall, that the sector can achieve true interoperability and realize the full potential of the Internet of Health.

Read Part 1: FHIR and the Promise of Interoperability

Read Part 3: How Not to Become Obsolete as Healthcare Technology Advances

Read Part 4: Why We Need to Build the Internet of Health

Read Part 5: How Smile CDR is Enabling the Internet of Health